Immediately following the Chequers incident, I wrote an article explaining that I thought I knew what Theresa May was trying to do, finally. I said I wasn’t sure if it would work, but at least she seemed to have a plan. However, she blew the whole thing up herself within a week, so now I’m back to being unsure as to what the prime minister thinks she’s doing. But so far, so 2018; we live in an age where not only huge political problems but full blown constitutional crises have become commonplace.
Speaking of constitutional crises, here’s one that no one is talking about, one that given the insanity taking place within the current Conservative parliamentary Party could become relevant uncomfortably soon. If there is a general election and the Labour Party wins, it will be the first time a party will have had a majority in the House of Commons without the ability of the relevant MPs to get rid of their leader. This isn’t a minor problem, by the way, and is ironically enough more important to this particular version of the Labour Party than any other party that has ever governed this country.
Imagine that Labour wins and Corbyn moves into Number 10. If he tries to deviate from what would probably be another Ed Miliband-lite manifesto, his own parliamentary party will stop him in his tracks at every turn. If he tries to impose a more radical manifesto upon them, they will try and disown it during the campaign itself, and Corbyn will have huge difficulties getting a lot of it passed once in power. You will have a leader of a party that mostly doesn’t want to do the same things he does. Again, the solution to this in the past is that the parliamentary party deposes the leader and carries on. With Labour under the current rules, as we’ve seen happen twice already, this isn’t actually possible.
What you’ll have instead is something incredibly messy. Basically, a war between the elected representatives of their constituencies and the membership of the Labour Party. I have no idea where that would go, but I feel certain it wouldn’t be good for the country. Nor would it be good for the Labour Party itself, which would tear itself to pieces with no way out – other than another general election, which because the Tories are ripping themselves to pieces as well, could just return the same result.
All of this is why I think a new centrist party, or at least some sort of government of national unity is a lot more likely than people think. We’ve never seen both major parties in the Westminster system have existential crises at precisely the same time before; add into that the very potent issue of Brexit, and the impossible starts to become very possible. I’m not predicting what will happen here – I gave that up after the 2017 general election – I’m simply pointing out that I hear a lot these days about stuff pundits are sure simply cannot happen, that nonetheless we are sleepwalking as a nation towards.