SSo what now? Far from resolving Britain’s political crisis, the madness of the past 24 hours has further upped the stakes. Not only does the failed Tory leadership challenge settle nothing of real significance, it makes it even harder to envisage a way through the current turmoil that doesn’t lead to a calamitous shattering of trust in British politics and, in time, to a Jeremy Corbyn government. Theresa May will stagger on, badly damaged by a massive rebellion that reveals the fragility of her grip on power. Despite that, she now has a year before the Conservative Party can try to throw her out again. This means that she could, if so inclined, seek to reach out to Remainers in other parties to push through an ultra-soft Brexit, safe in the knowledge that her MPs would be powerless to unseat her.
This is a major change, but it is also the only real difference to where we were 24 hours ago. The narrowness of her victory means that she has hardly been imbued with super-powers. If she continues to try to thwart a meaningful Brexit, her pro-Brexit MPs will make life almost impossible for her. She will still not be able to govern in any meaningful way. Her administration will effectively disintegrate and she won’t be able to pass any legislation at all. Party members, donors and the Leave-voting public will be in uproar, and one or more new political parties will undoubtedly be launched.
The only difference is that she will be able to cling on amid the madness, powerless within her own party but capable of negotiating with the Opposition, with a guaranteed job,unless and until her government actually collapses.