There is no precedent for a governing party in Britain taking the kind of bollocking the Tories just took in European Parliament elections. It’s a bit of an irony, of course, because by rights these elections should not be happening – but the omnishambles brought about by Theresa May’s waiting until the eleventh hour and the fifty-ninth minute to consider looking outside her own party for a deal has borne fruit. The “Brexit Party,” a sort of sentient yawp established six weeks ago to elect people to a body they don’t want to be part of, finished first past the post albeit not with a majority. The Tories came fourth, and the Liberal Democrats have seemingly sprung back to life as the most visible coherent anti-Brexit party.
Problem is, if you do the math, actual anti-Brexit parties finished with a greater share of the vote than the Brexit Party. And the parties of the center-right and center-left, both internally divided over Brexit, have very little ground over which to build a bridge, especially as the sort of Norway-or-Switzerland notions that UKIP supposedly pointed to three years ago are now anathema to a gang of Brexiteers that wants out tomorrow with no deal, mostly because bugger everyone who says that would be a catastrophe, what do they know, elitist arrogant scum.
In a way, we’re getting a glimpse into an alternate universe where the GOP stripped Donald Trump of his delegates in June of 2016 and refused to let his candidacy go forward under the Republican banner. What we’re seeing in the UK is sort of a three-legged contest between Trump, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton (because Labour are under a similar cloud of being saddled with a leader that a lot of their rank and file don’t want).
And yet, Brexit has to continue, because…oh right, to pull the plug would be to undermine democracy and frustrate the will of the people – never mind that the margin was 52-48 and that there was never a coherent version of what “Leave” actually entailed. At least the Electoral College is part of the American system, if merely an appendix distended and near to bursting in a fit of civic sepsis. The notion of a national referendum to take the UK out of the EU, which must be followed despite having no status in law, is just proof positive (if any were necessary) that when they write how the United Kingdom was destroyed, it was David Cameron what pushed the plunger down on the dynamite. (Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain by bigger percentage margins than England or Wales either one voted Leave, so do the math and see where public opinion is likely to go in the next decade especially when the Good Friday peace process is in the balance and Scotland’s already narrowly missed breaking away once.)
And ultimately, that’s the bitch of the thing. Non-Parliamentary elections in the UK are usually there to take the piss out of the ruling party, as when Labour polled 16% in the European Parliament elections a decade ago. There is a large school of thought that suggests the Brexit referendum was the same: people voting to punish the Tories after six years of government. In a way, maybe they did, because now the suggestion will emerge that the Conservative Party can only survive by going full on Brexiteer – in which case you can logically expect substantial Tory Remainer defection to the LibDems or elsewhere. And then you wind up in a position where the May deal, or some other Norway-plus arrangement, is enough to get the votes of Remainers who conclude that Brexit can’t be revoked outright and the only hope is to get the least Brexit possible. Which will almost certainly necessitate a general election, somehow, because a no-deal Brexit can still happen merely by running out the clock with no further affirmative legislation.
David Cameron blow Britain’s balls off in 2016. It may take three and a half years, but bleeding out is now legitimately on the cards.