Well now we have a motion of no confidence that failed. Which is astonishing, because by all rights we should have had a resignation last night. But the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which David Cameron hairballed up in 2010, makes it easy enough for a failing PM to stave off replacement (something Cameron needed as a self-preservation safety net for his blue-yellow coalition after the 2010 elections). So in the last couple of months, Theresa May has been challenged within her party (survived), challenged with a vote of confidence (survived), and lost a Parliamentary vote by the largest margin in history, yet remained.
There are those who suggest that if anyone other than Jeremy Corbyn were in charge of Labour, it might be different. As it is, Corbyn is a mixed bag – a Bernie Bro’s idea of a PM who nevertheless has a Eurosceptic record and appears to be most engaged in the Brexit process inasmuch as it might overthrow the government and install Labour. And that in and of itself is the problem with Corbyn: right now, with 72 days to go, bending the curve on Brexit is far more crucial than overthrowing the Tories.
Insanely, the commentary seems to be that Parliament will not allow a no-deal Brexit – but right now that’s the default condition. That’s what’s going to happen on March 29 if nothing else happens, and there are plenty enough Tory Brexiteers who are just as happy to have that happen. A no-deal Brexit doesn’t require positive action. It is going to happen unless prevented. The choice of whether to have a no-deal Brexit was taken when May triggered Article 50.
And that’s a big problem, and points up a huge issue: Theresa May has mishandled this about as badly as anyone can imagine. To be fair, she wound up in this spot through no fault of her own. The Brexit referendum was David Cameron’s idea, a foolish attempt in 2015 to hold together a fragmenting party in coalition government against a movement made stronger by the failure of his own austerity policy in the fact of the credit crunch. UKIP and its sewer-dwelling fellow travelers in the BNP and its ilk pointed at an economy struggling under archaic economic thinking and told the British public “you’d be farting through silk if it weren’t for Johnny Foreigner” and Cameron was too weak a leader to fight back. So he threw out a referendum under the now-familiar delusion that “oh this could never win” and then when holy shit 52% voted in favor, Cameron bravely tucked his tail and fled and left somebody else to dig a pony out of two hundred tons of horse shit. So you can’t fault May for that; she was a Remain voter herself and then got handed this particular bag of ass.
But it’s been a disaster, largely because nobody knew what Brexit meant. There was no manifesto for what “Leave” meant. The hard-leave, no-customs-union, no-Norway, no-nothing-Rule-Brittania approach culled from the rich inner fantasy life of people who don’t realize Al Murray’s Pub Landlord is satirical has nothing resembling majority support. The 52% who voted for Brexit, assuming they haven’t had second thoughts, were promised that things would not meaningfully change for them and they’d have an extra three hundred million quid a week for the NHS. That’s plainly not going to happen. And the entire process has been half-assed along by what is functionally a minority party, only held in place by a supply & confidence agreement with the Northern Irish DUP – because May chose a snap election in 2017 that wiped out the Tory majority. And the deal she cut with the EU wound up catching the worst loss of any government bill in the history of Parliament.
And so we come back to the hard truth: there is no consensus to be had. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, no Brexit – none commands 50% of the vote in Parliament, and the Tories cannot pass a deal and hold together as a party. There’s talk of a second referendum – but Corbyn doesn’t seem interested in doing that either, because he sees himself in 10 Downing and Britain out of the EU without his fingerprints on the murder weapon. He has every incentive to run out the clock and hope for the best, because his interest and the national interest are orthogonal.
At this point, if the majority wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit, there’s only one way to go: pull the plug. Back out of Article 50, sooner than later, and say that Brexit will not happen as a result of ticking-bomb hostage negotiation. But that’s unlikely to happen, and as long as the two wounded leaders insist on clinging to power, things can only get worse.