If you look at the front of forces on the march you tend to find one of three things. Leaders, figureheads, and cannon fodder, and British politics certainly hasn’t been suffering from an excess of leadership recently.
Theresa May (still officially Prime Minister when I started writing this sentence) entered Downing Street after a leadership election which was more entertaining than inspiring and, having campaigned for Remain, took on the responsibility of delivering Brexit, whatever that means (two and a half years and still waiting to find out).
May became PM like a survivor from a disaster movie (or The Walking Dead if we’re embracing the shift to TV), climbing out of whatever shelter she was hiding in and then shuffling through a desolate wasteland (with Abba echoing somewhere across the dead land).
In fact it is hard to imagine how anyone could have succeeded when placed in the situation she faced. Any deal she got was going to fall short of the Brexiteer campaign fantasies since it was unforgivably constrained by reality. To them Brexit is the solution to every problem from ebola to tangled earphones, any awkward issue just meant May needed to Brexit harder. Whatever the question Brexit is the one true answer, a faith so strong that when a deal is presented that doesn’t guarantee unicorns, leprechauns, and English footballing success these shit-lemmings are prepared to dive head-first into the nearest fan (and apparently can’t even do that right).
May’s failure is ultimately that when faced with solo-climbing Mount Everest she managed to get lost in her own tent. She is the caretaker manager of the UK, put in place to see a bad season through and then be sacrificed for the shine of a fresh start. The scapegoat, to be loaded up with sin and sent out into the desert to find its end as the sweet Thames runs softly by.
On the other side we have Labour, marching onwards to somewhere or other while carrying before them the icon of our Jeremy of Corbyngham. John McDonnell is at the controls but he doesn’t have the same singable name and is a bit too clear about what he believes in.
Corbyn, the magic granddad of the left, has firmly taken the stance that everything is on the table (and definitely not the fence). He is staunchly in favour of maybe having a referendum, possibly with some options, that might or might not include remaining in the EU, but he doesn’t know which side he’d choose. Meanwhile Keir Starmer is looming in the background trying his best to nudge him back into line with the rest of the party, which is being forced into the awkward position of agreeing with the ghost of Tony Blair that’s returned to haunt them.
There are two points on which JC has been very clear on, firstly that he will judge any deal based on Labour’s six tests (roughly summarised either as eating your cake and having it too or, if you prefer the succinct assessment of Labour’s International Trade spokesman, “bollocks”).
Secondly that if he wins a general election then he will be immediately be able to persuade the EU to re-open Brexit negotiations and get a new deal, a better deal, a jobs first deal. A deal with all the benefits of EU membership but definitely nothing bad in it. A deal that involves so much winning etc. Corbyn and the ERG’s statements tend to echo Trump’s dealmaking claims and also his casual disregard for reality.
So we have a (probably) Remain-supporting Prime Minister trying to pretend she can negotiate a Brexit deal that won’t appear in future textbooks as a dire warning from history, “opposed” by a (probably) Brexit-supporting Leader of the Opposition who’s artistically blurring the line between incompetence and sabotage. Was it ever going to end well?