These are truly mad times.
Parliament has been back in session for less than a week and we have experienced scenes that will go down in history, speeches that will become YouTube sensations, and events that future generations will study in school. If this was a TV drama for political geeks it would all be terribly exciting – a barnstorming season opener. But this is real life, and the overriding feeling amid the chaos, the prorogation and the mass expulsions is a depressing sense that stalemate is tearing us apart. The fate of this country is now being decided not by reasoned debate and compromise, but by a vicious dog fight where conventions of fair play are being thrown out of the window in exchange for a chess game of manipulation. More than three years and just six weeks from the already revised Brexit day, we have no deal, no agreement, and a civil war raging with little clarity on what the outcome will be.
In terms of winners and losers in the chess game, this has certainly been a difficult week for Boris Johnson. Throwing heavy punches at Parliament has led to him getting punched back twice as hard, and he has now seemingly lost control of the timings for both Brexit and a General Election. The plan to prorogue Parliament did not paralyse opponents but instead unified and enraged them. Meanwhile, the hardline policy of sacking all Conservatives who voted against the Government on Brexit is now looking rather like cutting off your nose to spite your face, as evidenced by the Government’s whopping new majority of minus 43.
There are few certainties on how this will all pan out, but one thing is clear: we will be having a General Election soon. It may not happen on October 15th as the Government intends, but it will happen. The opposition to an election is based on timings, not absolutes, and once Labour is sure that a no-deal Brexit on October 31st is ruled out and an extension granted, we will likely be heading to the ballot box once again.
And it is here when Johnson could still have the last laugh. Polls look favourable for the Conservatives as it stands, and the anti-Brexit vote is massively split between Labour and the Lib Dems. How well the anti-Brexit alliance organises itself will have a huge impact on the outcome, and it will be a challenge to convince Labour and Lib Dem voters to work together. There is clear water between Corbyn and Swinson on almost everything except shared opposition to a no-deal Brexit, but somehow they will need to get their squabbling ducks in a row, or risk surrendering power to Boris Johnson.
The election, when it happens, may well finally end this stalemate and give us some much needed certainty on the fate of the country. What it will not fix however, is the division that is splitting the UK down the middle, the perceived Remain vs Leave binary, and the relentless fixation on our relationship with Europe above and beyond everything else. This, for the time being, will remain the defining challenge of our times.