When the politics undergraduate textbooks of the future come to summarise Brexit, I’m not sure how they’ll pithily describe this period between the referendum and the triggering of article 50. Obviously comparisons with the Second World War are trite, so let’s assume they won’t get lazy and refer to the past seven months as a “phoney war”.
The Tories were always supposed to be torn about by Europe: it was their job. Had been for decades. Instead, the party has unified under May, determined to make Brexit as hard and as brutal as possible. Tactically, it’s classic: never underestimate the party’s instinct for self preservation. If they can survive the leadership of Hague ‘n Duncan Smith, they can survive anything.
Instead, it’s the Labour Party who are tortuously triangulating between “the British people have spoken – and they have legitimate concerns” tabloid pandering, and pointing out that a “Tory Brexit” will be a total shitshow.
The vote to give authority to trigger article 50 was British democracy at its very worst. We had a debate and vote before the publication of the white paper one could have assumed they would have been debating. We had the surreal sight of Labour MPs defying their constituencies and dutifully voting alongside their Tory compadres, lest they be deemed enemies of democracy by the Mail.
Because, as future textbooks will no doubt debate, referendums, when coupled with representative democracy, can raise various constitutional questions.
I wrote a choose your own adventure to help MPs decided on their Brexit vote. Ken Clarks is in there somewhere.