Even a quick look at the political landscape in Britain right now reveals the seismic changes that have already been brought about by last Thursday’s result. I'm a very, very long way from a political expert, so can only say it as I see it, but it all rather suggests that the front each party presents to the electorate has been tissue-paper thin all along. I suspect that would surprise nobody (and could fill an entry all of its own), but it’s nonetheless a bit worrying.
On the one hand, the Tories are going through a leadership election that was always going to happen if the vote went against Cameron. The declared runners at time of writing are few, with likely candidates like Boris Johnson* and Jeremy Hunt announcing they’re not running. but even so - you know it’s grim when you’re looking at the selection and thinking to yourself ‘I hope Theresa May wins’. And she’s been backed by ‘Corrible’ Hunt – I’m sure she’s delighted.
Obviously though, being instinctively a lefty, it’s Labour’s leadership issue which most concerns me. I confess to having felt mixed feelings about Corbyn specifically – it’s not easy to support a man the majority of whose parliamentary party is against him, simply because it makes things easier for the Tories at a time when their own divisions should be being exploited.
That said, ultimately those MPs are (supposedly) elected to represent their constituents, and many of the rank and file Labour Party members who voted for him in large numbers come from those constituencies. So overall, I think the PLP should shut up and get behind a man who has a clear mandate from the membership and would likely win again in the event of any formal leadership challenge. Indeed the Labour Party membership jumped specifically before his election, with many joining so they could vote for him. Those members haven't gone away, as the rising membership of Momentum demonstrates. The Parliamentary Labour Party should not be distancing itself from the very people who put them there, even if they disagree with many of them on the specific issue of the EU. Corbyn’s support of Remain may not have been convincing but he did support it, at least publicly. He did what was right when it mattered – the PLP should do the same.
The biggest concern for me in all of this is who’s likely to exploit any political vacuum caused by the splits on both sides. Usually the centre ground would benefit from such problems, but the Lib Dems are still reaping the whirlwind of their own voters’ ire after they coalesced with the Tories, so that’s not necessarily the case now. That leaves the worrying possibility that more extreme parties, of whatever persuasion, stand to gain from the chaos. Imagine a general election where the Tory vote is split or lowered because they’ve lost the support of Remain voters in London and elsewhere, the Labour party has split in two, dividing their votes with them, and nobody wants to vote Lib Dem. What you’ve possibly got then is a very low turnout and UKIP and others improving their share of the vote dramatically.
That doesn’t bear thinking about, but the referendum result has generated such turmoil in politics in Britain right now that it’s the kind of hypothetical scenario that we have to.
*Has it all got a bit real for Boris, such that he suddenly doesn’t want anything to do with it? He and Gove looked like rabbits in headlights in the direct aftermath of the Leave victory, and it’s since become clear that they’d done not an iota of planning between them for such a result.