One of the things that makes me smile when I read political commentaries at present is whenever Brexit is framed as being “over with” sometime soon. This is one of the great myths of our current age. It is spread by those who think we can have a second referendum in the next couple of months, Remain wins and then everyone just forgets about Brexit completely; equally by those who think no deal Brexit means a couple of weeks of bumpiness and then we all forget about it and go on with our lives.
One of the reasons no deal Brexit would be a disaster for the Tories, even if somehow the initial impact of it wasn’t catastrophic, is that it would destroy them with both sides of their electorate. Remainers would never forgive them, while Leavers wouldn’t credit them for it but instead side with Farage who would go on and on about how no deal Brexit wasn’t done correctly, and if only he had been in charge, it would have been way better. Equally, those who are agnostic on the topic – an increasingly smaller number of voters – would see the Conservatives’ reputation for steady handling of the levers of powers annihilated.
Whether anyone likes it or not, Remain v Leave is set to be the political battle in British politics for many years to come. You may, like Mr Corbyn, wish it was austerity vs unicorn socialism, or you may wish it to be something other than Brexit and left-wing issues entirely, but we are where we are. The parties who understand this will be on the rise; the ones who do not, like Labour, are set to decline. Perhaps not in every constituency, but in enough so that it is the deciding factor in a general election.
What’s interesting about the current melting of the two parties’ electoral standing is that Labour’s decline in support was a lot more avoidable than the Conservatives’ issues. The Tories, as the government, had to find some way to enact it and agree Brexit and then see it through. True, if the party had found a way to unite behind May’s deal and get it through parliament, they wouldn’t be in the position they are in now. Yet they are there because of splits in the way Brexit will actually be delivered, not in the way Brexit could have ideally ben done. That was the remit of the the official opposition – who have blown in spectacular style.
After Peterborough, there is pressure on the Lib Dems to become a much more serious, big tent style party. Early signs on this front aren’t great. However, if the Tories and Labour don’t see how much politics has changed over the past months and get with it, they my not have to do anything but tread water to keep gaining support by default.