Friday 31 May 2019

Local Council By-Elections May 2019

This month saw 102,630 votes cast over 45 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. Six council seats changed hands and two seats were contested for the first time. For comparison with April's results, see here.

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- May 18

* There were two by-elections in Scotland
** There was one by-election in Wales
*** There were two Independent clashes this month
**** Others this month consisted of
Women's Equality Party (71, 41), People Before Profit (151, 218), Democrats and Veterans (13, 28), Christian People's Alliance (52), Anti-Cuts (91), Citizens First (45), Tunbridge Wells Alliance (1,088), Upminster and Cranham Residents Association (2,421), British Union and Sovereignty Party (165)

Not a bad set of results if you're a follower of the two main parties. Both shed the same number of seats and Labour edged ahead again in terms of votes, even though it was fielding markedly fewer candidates than the Tories. This should give the latter pause for concern. As a lot of the seats contested this month were held over to this set of May elections, these were a) in seats that, at this point in the cycle, disproportionately favoured the Conservatives, and b) differential turn outs by age are accentuated in local by-elections. They fell back under conditions of a double advantage, which seems to continue the pattern established this year so far.

Of course, it could be that we're playing with new rules now. We saw the EU elections and the catastrophic results for the Tories and Labour, and that YouGov poll has since dropped that places the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party first and second respectively. If the latter is more than overspill from the excitement, such as it was, of those elections it's in the continual monitoring of these real elections where we'll see it first.

2nd May
Broxbourne BC, Broxbourne & Hoddesdon South, Con hold
Cambridge BC, Kings Hedges, Lab hold
Cambridge BC, Trumpington, LDem hold
Cambridgeshire CC, Trumpington, LDem hold
Cherwell DC, Kidlington West, LDem hold
Craven DC, Upper Wharfedale, Con hold
Cumbria CC, Thursby, Con hold
Dundee CC, North East, SNP gain from Lab
Durham CC, Shildon & Dene Valley, LDem gain from Lab
Durham CC, Spennymoor, Ind hold
Exeter BC, Priory, Lab hold
Gloucester CC, Churchdown, LDem hold
Hart DC, Hook, Con hold
Havant BC, Purbrook, Con hold
Kent CC, Northfleet & Gravesend West, Lab hold
Kent CC, Sittingbourne North, Ind gain from Con
Lewisham LB, Evelyn, Lab hold
Lewisham LB, Whitefoot, Lab hold
Manchester MB, Fallowfield, Lab hold
Newcastle-under-Lyme BC, Maer & Whitmore, Con hold
Newcastle upon Tyne MB, Monument, Lab hold
North East Lincolnshire UA, South, UKIP gain from Lab
Northumberland UA, Holywell, Lab hold
Portsmouth UA, Cosham, Con hold
Reading UA, Thames, Con hold
St Albans DC, Sopwell, LDem hold
Sefton MB, Norwood, Lab gain from LDem
South Tyneside MB, Cleadon & East Boldon, Lab hold
Sunderland MB, Sandhill, LDem hold
Surrey CC, Haslemere, Ind gain from Con
Three Rivers DC, Carpenders Park, Con hold
Thurrock UA, Chadwell St Mary, Lab hold
Tunbridge Wells BC, Paddock Wood East, Con hold
Tunbridge Wells BC, Park, Oth gain from Con
Watford BC, Meriden, LDem hold
Welwyn Hatfield BC, Hatfield East, Con hold
Welwyn Hatfield BC, Hatfield South West, Lab hold
West Sussex CC, Northgate & West Green, Lab hold
Wolverhampton MB, Tettenhall Wightwick, Con hold
Wolverhampton MB, Wednesfield South, Lab hold

9th May
East Lothian, Haddington & Lammermuir, Con hold
Havering LBC, Cranham, Oth hold

23rd May
Neath Port Talbot UA, Resolven, Lab, Ind gain from Lab
Tendring DC, St Osyth x2 (new seats), Ind gain x2

30th May
Gosport BC, Brockhurst, LDem hold

Tuesday 28 May 2019

What Now for the Brexit Party?

While everyone loses their heads over the expulsion of Alastair Campbell, let's consider weightier matters: what Nigel Farage's Brexit Party is going to do next. After all, here we are two days after the election results and the media, including the BBC, seem to have forgotten already that the Brexit Party steamed to the top of the poll with 31% of the vote and had 29 MEPs returned. We know there is something of a bias against in-depth coverage of the Tories compared to Labour, but seeing the commentariat carry on as if the near total displacement of the mainstream right by a fringe outfit is nothing less than astonishing.

Their loss. The problem facing Farage now is how to keep the bandwagon going and, unfortunately, there are forces at work making life easier for him. Having seen the wipe out coming, the Tory leadership contest is already heavily conditioned by the Faragist insurgency before Sunday night's disaster hit. For instance, it was surprising to see Jeremy Hunt this morning confirm his bid for Number 10, and then immediately declaring against no deal under any circumstance - a moment of "responsibility" that has likely cost him his scanty chance. But for the hard Brexit/no deal wing of the contest, they reason there is little chance the party is going to be punished if they can annex the Brexit Party vote, like Theresa May hammered UKIP in 2017. That's right, the country, the economy, living standards, they can go wallow in the gutter as long as the Conservative Party remains a going concern. What this means then is the Brexit Party casts a large shadow over proceedings and its presence will haunt Tory debates, ensuring its continued relevance for the leadership election's duration.

We also have the small matter of the Peterborough by-election. This is Labour's seat to lose, after voters decanted Fiona Onasanya following her spell in pokey for lying about a speeding offence. And the Brexit Party have reason to be bullish. They're coming off a successful EU campaign (nothing breeds success like success, as Bob Ross put it), the count for the local authority area for the election put the Brexit Party on twice Labour's vote, and parliamentary by-elections do have a logic of their own. Local issues play more, but also if voters are minded to give the incumbent a kicking, following the 'normal' 2012 Corby by-election through to the 2015 general election, UKIP became the protest party go to - regardless of the party who was defending the seat. Might we see this happen again? Whether the Faragists win or not, they will do very well and their vote is going to feed the impression of momentum, of a pro-Brexit people's army rallying to Farage's banner.

However, the biggest problem Farage has got is his jury-rigged party. Consider the UKIP experience. Farage's writ was never entirely law when he was leader, and the party was always fractious - members falling out in public, MEPs resigning, punch ups, and embarrassing Walter Mitty fantasists. And this was just the party's leading figures. UKIP suffered because its constituency tended to be quite soft, having abandoned other parties, and also non-too-coherent. Refugees from the Tories were always its main base, as it is for the Brexit Party, but ex-Labour voters were involved too. One reason why UKIP dumped its shallow libertarian schtick when it hit the big time was because balls-out Thatcherism wouldn't cut it with the electorate it was seeking.

The Brexit Party repeats all this. It's got the same bunch of voters, plus some more. They are mostly old and, mirroring UKIP and its Tory parent, the party has gathered about it a coalition in long-term decline. i.e. If the party sticks around, it's not going to replace its support like-for-like as voters shuffle off this mortal coil and young people come of age. Add to that some real egos too. While there is no Brexit Party without Farage, as UKIP have discovered to their cost, I'm sure some, like Richard Tice in the East of England, Ann Widdecombe in the South West, and the ex-Revolutionary Communist Party, could come to believe they are personages in their own right and the party label was incidental to their election. We've seen it so many times. Among the 29 MEPs returned, some are going to cause a ruckus and an inconvenience and give Farage a headache.

Anticipating all this, the Brexit Party has been set up as a cadre party. That is an identifiable group of notables who compete in elections, control the apparatus of the party and its messaging, but lack a mass membership. Indeed, you still can't join the Brexit Party, but you can give money and have your name added to its mailing list. What is slightly different about this party is Farage is the cadre - he decides all things. If any of his MEPs rebel, he can turf them out without any due process. And if Brexit Party supporters do a racism, well they're only supporters for whom neither he nor the party have any responsibility. Indeed, Farage has been entirely candid the party was set up as a company for exactly this reason.

Still, there is a problem here. To persist parties need a life of their own. Parties, among other things, are communities of the like-minded. They do more than campaign, they are a social space for people to congregate. That, at least, is the possibility held out by mass membership parties. This isn't the case for the Brexit Party. Bypassing this means that not only is the party entirely top down, it's lack of - for want of a better phrase - horizontality makes for a brittle, weak party. Farage has hit upon a means of securing this participation without ceding control. Again, talking to Channel 4 News this evening, he said that the Brexit Party is going to outsource its policy to the supporter base by, effectively, crowd sourcing and holding referenda on what should go in the manifesto. Again, this shields Farage from scrutiny of what his views really are because he can hide behind his party. What are the supporters likely to go for? A fully-funded NHS, protection of pensions, cuts to overseas aid, more armed forces spending, and so on, giving the party a platform he could spin as neither left nor right but democratic. And all without ceding control.

Therefore we have a fraught politics powering Farage's continued relevance, and moves by him to ensure his movement has a life of its own can can't merely be carried off by one of the Tory leadership hopefuls. It's this backward, atavistic party that swept all before it last week, and they are in a position to deeply influence the selection of the next Prime Minister. What a terrible state of affairs.

Monday 27 May 2019

Our Polarised Electorate

The EU election results are in, and seldom has the electorate been so sharply contrasted. 37% of voters commuted to and from the polls on Thursday, while 63% found something else to do. In other words, despite being the most hyped and talked about EU elections ever around the polarising issue of our time, a firm majority stayed put. It's difficult to say how many of those who did vote out of party loyalty/civic duty, but for the turn out to climb by one-and-a-half points is pretty pitiful. Yet, judging by the commentariat and the Twitterati, this is immediate evidence both parties need to abandon their current Brexit positions.

For the Tories, we know exactly how Theresa May got the Tories in this mess in the first place. 8.8% of the vote, their worst result in a national election ever, and by quite some distance. They went from 19 MEPs to just four.

And Labour? Oh Labour, Labour, Labour. Of course, seeing the party vote melt away in London and everywhere of significance was pretty grim. Even saying see ya to Gerard Batten, and the pathetic result for Yaxley-Lennon was scant consolation. But as night follows day, the calls have grown attacking Labour's Brexit position as confusing (it's not confusing, it just doesn't lend itself to a polarised election contest), and for it to go full on remain. We'll talk about that in another post, but it is worth noting that outside of London it was the Brexit Party who appeared to benefit most from our misfortunes, and so simply switching our position is not without consequence.

You can understand the panic all over the place, but there are two main things that have to be remembered. As with the local election results, EU elections don't matter as far as most people are concerned. This has two consequences: most stay at home (hence the turn out), and those who don't are more likely to protest. For instance, the story pushed by Lady Jess of loyal Brummie Labour activists voting LibDem on the quiet (that they didn't secretly punt for the Greens says a great deal about how awful their politics are) might be true, but would they have done so during a general election? Unlikely.

The second observation is older people are more likely to turn out in elections, and this is especially magnified when it comes to second order elections. Why is this relevant? Because, as we know, there are big differences between older and younger voters. The older you are, particularly if you are retired, the more likely you are to vote for the right for a number of reasons. This suggests the Brexit Party vote, on 31%, is inflated in the sense it could never get that were turnout increased. Therefore, for those holding out a hope for Labour doing well on a second referendum ticket, a general election is going to turn out more of, for want of a better phrase, its kind of people. And there is also this piece from the LSE making the case of interpreting the results as a swing away from Leave to Remain, suggesting there is a bigger pool for Labour to fish from than the shrinking pond available for the Tories.

The final thing worth recalling are those Westminster polls which, despite being overwritten by EU election concerns, give us different numbers to Sunday night's cluster mess. It isn't just that people care more because government has a greater impact on people's lives (and yes, even more than Brexit), but because the political economy that gave us 2017's polarised vote is still there. And that's not going away, no matter the contortions and spin put on Sunday's vote.

Sunday 26 May 2019

On the Melt Meltdown

On Twitter earlier, lefty comedian David Schneider wrote "Good to hear Shami Chakrabati clarifying Labour’s position on free movement which is that it will end but only as it was under the EU so it won’t end fully though it might and if it doesn’t end it won’t be totally free. Unless that’s what happens. Simples."

Well then. There's something peculiar, isn't there, about a particular fraction of otherwise progressive types who seem intent on confounding us with these increasingly erratic and incomprehensible takes, in this case about a line in the last Labour manifesto declaring that upon leaving the EU free movement will end. It's peculiar because if you give the situation a few seconds thought, it isn't. If/when we leave, free movement for EU citizens as it exists now, and the rules under which it exists, will end. This is simply because those rules will not exist any more. They will cease to be. That’s what 'ending free movement' in this context means. It says nothing at all about what is going to happen in its place. It’s just a statement of fact, a point that Chakrabarti tried to explain.

It's an unfortunate truism for some that even if we left the EU under the leadership of the “We Love Free Movement And We Aren't Afraid To Say It" party, the same would happen. Sing it with me: free movement as it exists now would end. Because the rules currently governing it wouldn’t apply to us any more. You cannot be any clearer than this, and it seems unnecessary to keep repeating it, yet here we are. New rules will be drawn up when or if we leave, and we know this already because that's what the Tories are meant to have been doing for the past two years. This end-of-existing-rules-oh-heck-what-next? situation would be the case whether it was Labour, the Tories, LibDems, the Brexit Party or ever-plucky CHUKups at the helm. The content of those new rules will naturally vary depending on what the party in control wants and how they go about negotiations with Europe. Since it’s impossible to know how a negotiation of future rules will go before said negotiation has been had (and let us remember, it has been May and her team in the negotiating driving seat so far), the best way to judge what will happen is by looking at the direction of travel and politics of a particular party. A person might look, for instance, to recent comments by the leader of the LibDems explaining how he still believes free movement and immigration can be a 'negative', and judge their commitment to the existing arrangements accordingly.

Referencing our endearing funny man again, it’s interesting that many of the same voices who have bemoaned the polarisation of politics since the EU referendum and the rise of Corbynism are desperate for a black/white, binary, them/us, simplistic narrative and solution. Labour are currently the only party which is consistent in its acknowledgement of nuance, of negotiation, and of there being no quick fix. Labour is the only party recognising the political context of Brexit and seeking a way through the impasse. We are the only party looking at what domestic policies need to go hand-in-hand with any Brexit conclusion. For example, as Shami Chakrabarti said on Andrew Marr, substantially increasing the minimum wage is one. The pointed efforts of Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister's Questions week after week raising other issues, what Sophy Ridge on Sophy Ridge half jokingly refers to as 'any other business', alongside Brexit are another.

There’s an obstinate refusal by self-proclaimed sensible moderates to attempt any kind of joined up thinking. Some of it will be driven by straight-up hatred of Corbyn. Some by genuine political differences. Some of it though is powered by a flailing confusion and fear that the progressive and vaguely lefty pedestal they put themselves on is shown to be nothing more than performance now an actual left wing social democratic leadership and platform has emerged. The fact it is thoughtful, intelligent, and nuanced in its Brexit approach only upsets them more, as they retreat into that binary, knee jerk, and superficial ranting that only further entrenches the polarisation they abhor. This is the kind of behaviour they have constantly and erroneously accused the Labour leadership and it supporters of practising since Jeremy Corbyn first popped up on the leadership ballot paper. You hear a lot about wanting the grown ups to take control. That infantilising language belies the fact that they don’t want that at all, because we already have it in this Labour leadership.

One way you can sum up the ethical basis of Labourism is the tackling of and doing away with the conditions engendering “them” and “us”. You can apply that to all sorts of things, from supporting the NHS to LGBT equality to economic (re)distribution. For the most part I’d expect other Labour people, especially those in the public eye, whether they're politicians or high profile supporters, to believe the same. Which is why it’s curious to see their doubling down on a “them” and “us” narrative, in this case with leavers and remainers. Put another way, opining that “our society is so divided” feels rather hollow if you’re resisting any and all attempts to look at that society in the round and offering a way beyond it, and not as two sharply contrasting camps whose political and social lives are defined solely by a mark in a box in 2016.

There is no switch anyone can flick that will solve the situation. Too many "sensibles" believe there is a magic button that can at least solve the things they personally care about, everything and everyone else be damned. If we were to transport back to the idyllic era of the Olympic opening ceremony, as many of them seem to want to do, life would be peachy for them I'm sure. But that’s all they want. Putting in the hard work for everyone, of working for the many, not the few to coin a phrase, is of little interest. This is the only conclusion you can draw from their behaviour.

Back then, when everything was fields and people smiled to one another in the street, these people could believe themselves progressive and lefty and caring, because it wasn’t being put to the test. They were doing alright, thanks, and their outrages at discrete government policies and nebulous ideas of inequality and injustice were easy to perform because they didn’t really mean anything. Just look at your Eddie Marsdens and JK Rowlings, for instance. They typify this rotten trend. Now it’s coming to a head, and if they had done more than touted their conscience and wrung their hands as the Tory/LibDem coalition cut the country's social fabric to ribbons perhaps things would not be so bad. Perhaps they might have retained more influence and had a hand in the reshaping of society instead of getting buffeted by it, no longer floating serenely above it all.

There’s a contradiction and uncomfortable juxtaposition between where they are actually situated as actors in society, and where they think they are situated as wise observers and sages who Must Be Listened to. And their coming to terms with that contradiction, or rather failure to do so, is leading to some pretty embarrassing stuff, up to and including the abject failure and public humiliation of an entire section of the establishment.

Guest post from @CatherineBuca.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Dubstar - No More Talk

Get out your disco balls.

And also click on this for a piece about Boris Johnson I did for the Indy.

Friday 24 May 2019

How May Could Have Won

And just like that, everything has changed. In an odd speech that was one part trolling, one part self-mockery, May announced this morning she would begin the process of the new Tory leadership contest on 7th June and remain Prime Minister until it is concluded. And there was the usual guff about leaving the country overflowing with milk and honey, a claim that refuses to stand up even if you squint at it. So May, one of the worst Prime Ministers ever is on her way out the door with the tacky polyester furs of failure draped about her shoulders.

Matters could have been quite different. The most recent past tends to colour the appreciation of what went before, and so we forget she was once a formidable opponent who could have locked Labour out of power for a decade or more. And were it not for strategic blunders that opened the door for Corbynism, it would have come to pass. Some locate her errors in the wooden 2017 General Election campaign, widely derided on the right as well as by our own people. Labour supporters will remember it fondly for decades to come - the public meetings without the public, the press conferences without the press, and the party promos without the party, the idiot mantra of strong and stable, the hubris of the dementia tax - oh what a time it was. What a tasty feast of schadenfreude it was. And this undoubtedly did for her. The May we came to know is a product of Corbynism, a failing and flailing Prime Minister brought low by the sweat of our brow, but May was our enabler: the long June lasting from 2017 to the present persisted because she unwittingly opened the door to her demise.

When your opponent is at the height of their powers, put despair away for hubris is the moment the seeds of destruction are cast. May's was much earlier than her fabled walking holiday with dear old Philip: it was not long after she took office. It was a pretty black moment for centre left politics, let alone the Corbyn project. In the aftermath of the greatest domestic political disaster since the Suez Crisis, Labour was courting extinction while the Tories quickly pulled themselves together, and wrapped the leadership contest up in quick time with May's coronation. Brownie points for a show of seriousness. The second sinking moment was her address to the nation from the Downing Street lectern. She channelled the spirit of Milibandism as she promised to wage struggle against injustice and address poverty. Coming after Dave's showy but callous government, from the side eye by which most people view politics she sounded different, serious, a conviction politician. This was one nation Toryism rebooted, audaciously premised on half-inching the ground Labour stood on but was too busy squabbling to prevent the land grab.

It went down a storm. Those who found Dave congenial had their consciences assuaged about supporting the Tories because May wanted to help the poor. There was no red meat for established Tories, but they knew her record from the Home Office well enough to start dreaming of Thatcher 2.0. Remember the embarrassment of Tory backbenchers affectionately referring to May as "mummy"? And a little bit of soft labourism married to authoritarianism and social conservatism, isn't that the heady brew working class voters "in the north" (of course) were supposed to be champing for? Almost immediately the Tories rallied in the polls and for the next nine months or so posted huge leads. In normal times this was the stuff from which hegemony was made, a project in formation for managing the class relationships criss-crossing and underpinning the British state with the advantage tipped permanently toward capital. This situation, which for a moment looked inevitable and viable, didn't work out precisely because we don't live in normal times. Or, rather, because of the particular way May and her, um, "celebrated" advisors Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, decided to approach Brexit.

With Labour indisposed in the summer of 2016, and buoyed by the polling and the fawning press, she made her crucial mistake: after leading the Westminster pack on she announced her interpretation of Brexit was pretty hard. This meant disengaging from EU institutions, an end of free movement for EU citizens, and a renegotiated trading relationship. The upside was a nebulous freedom for the UK to negotiate its own trade deals. In other words, as deals went, this was the most economically disruptive and potentially ruinous basis for an agreement out of the range of possible options. She had made a critical strategic error: by crassly putting the interests of keeping the Tory party together, May believed her coalition would hold. Which turned out to be the case: going hard on Brexit drove UKIP to the abyss, and served as the glue keeping them together (and getting the highest number of Tory votes since 1992), but the cardinal rule of hegemony building was forgotten nor understood. Organising yourselves goes hand-in-hand with disorganising your opponents.

Looking at the disarray Labour was in and then, by early 2017, its persistent lag in the polls you could almost forgive May for thinking a general election would be a good idea. Indeed, no one at the time was warning against one and I can remember sending several "we're fucked" texts as she was making her announcement. But she had set up the conditions for an insurgency. By then, the "burning injustices" speech was obviously just window dressing and whole swathes of Britain were effectively locked out of the awards our supposedly booming economy was generating. It was quite clear May wasn't about to address the problems of housing, of crap wages, of zero prospects, nor the suffering Dave and Osborne took delight in inflicting. What I missed, what we all missed, was a polarisation taking place beneath the surface. Effectively, May had coagulated a coalition of the haves - retirees above all - but by making Brexit its central organising principle it gave the have-nots something to define themselves against. Brexit is an empty signifier that organises not just its supporters, but its opposition. May's hard Brexit annoyed those who were for remain, and also those wanting a sensible, softer Brexit than the one she offered. May allowed it to become a rallying point, a moment of discontent in a complex of discontent the Labour Party was able to organise behind it. It was the catalyst for the real class polarisation to come out into the open and manifest itself in the electoral politics of the land.

You could argue May didn't have any choice but to incorporate Brexit as a wedge issue, but on the contrary she did have a choice. Dave called the referendum to neutralise the threat from UKIP, and May moved to accommodate them to secure the Tory right flank. But with a bit more imagination May could have capitalised on the good will, her (initial) novelty as a (presenting) conviction politician, and the latent desire to overcome the divisions set in train by the referendum by deepening her one nation pitch. She might have, for instance, in the spirit of magnanimity have announced a consensus-building approach to Brexit through a series of public consultations. She might have appealed to disgruntled Labour right wingers by trying to get them on board, while working to marginalise Corbyn even further. This would not have avoided trouble with her backbenchers but they'd have found it harder to behave as they have done thanks to her moral authority as a great unifier. In short, this could have allowed her to redefine a new common ground in politics that excluded the left as well as the fanatics in her own party, and one her party would have benefited from for years to come. A good job for the left that she was not so imaginative, and the Conservative Party interest was interpreted so narrowly.

The price of this failure is visible in the wreckage that daily fills our screens. The party May leaves is broken and disintegrating, and compounding the disaster it appears nearly all of her would-be successors none appreciate the merde it's stuck in and want to repeat her fatal error. Nevertheless, the Tories cannot be trusted to destroy themselves, by themselves. They need a good shove, and another, and another. That's where we come in, and why we must attend to the urgency of repairing our own coalition of support after the EU elections to be ready for whatever happens next.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

The End of Theresa May

Regularly polling fourth, facing electoral catastrophe as its EU vote goes everywhere but blue, its backbenchers in open revolt, and a government in disintegration with the Prime Minister on the verge of resignation ... Yes, unprecedented is an overused word, but that's what we're seeing right now. And savour it for we may never see its like again. When the inept meets the intractable, which is one way of looking at how Theresa May has approached Brexit, there can only be one outcome. In fact, there was only ever going to be one outcome: the Tory party, its venal government of the base, the boorish, and the befuddled was always going to come undone by the very thing it brought into being. The monster to Dave's Frankenstein, it is satisfying, so very satisfying that the referendum he thought would save the Conservative Party not only did for his premiership, it's also sunk that of his successor. And, quite likely, the leadership of the fool daft enough to step into May's shoes.

Of fools, there are plenty. Whoever gets the Tory leadership inherits May's mess, and would in all likelihood try and circumvent it by pledging themselves for a no deal Brexit. We'll see how long that lasts once they're in post, but assuming they'll want to see it through they will have rebellions of their own and parliament to contend with. Plus the sobering fact only about a third of the electorate would back them on Brexit, though supporting no deal does not necessarily translate into Conservative Party votes. But let's stick with May and her final days in Number 10.

A hundred years from now (hello 22nd century watchers!), May is not going to be well-remembered despite her centrality to the Brexit process. There are no achievements to her name, apart from accelerating the demise of her party, and her shortness of tenure and total preoccupation with and miserable handling of our departure from the EU are not about to warrant positive write ups and glowing revisionism decades from now. May is not someone who tried her best for the country. It was first, second, third about keeping the Tories together, surrendering and subordinating everything from the broad economic interests of British capitalism, the reputation of the UK state, its future leverage in EU trade negotiations, and the livelihoods of millions to the narrow, sectional, short-termist view of a favourable headline here and a parliamentary vote there. Seldom has such a pathetic spectacle graced British politics, of so much willingly sacrificed in return for so little.

And what is truly incredible about these dying days is that, to repeat a mantra, nothing had changed. After Jeremy Corbyn pulled the plug on the Brexit talks, May was saying she had an ambitious new deal to offer. Even when the BBC is emboldened enough to write the prime minister's new Brexit deal isn't that new", then you know she's stuck. Lecturing everyone on compromises and the need to make them after thrice failing to clear the Commons on the exact same deal, her new deal was, um, more of the same. She was happy to accept environmental protections and promises on workers' rights, but we had heard this before. What was new was the possibility of a second referendum. i.e. Allowing parliament to have another vote on holding another vote. Which, of course, would not go through unless May whipped for it - and even then the likelihood of passing rates as chancy to say the least. Nevertheless, the very sniff of a confirmatory referendum was too much for many Tory MPs, with dozens of them failing to show for what was likely to be her last Prime Minister's Questions today and the departure of Andrea Leadsom from the cabinet (worry ye not Leadsom fans, she will be back). But it really beggars belief how May thought her deal, totally unchanged save some wording on the non-binding political declaration, was ever going to bring about a different outcome. We live in such times as Change UK and the continuing employment of Chris Grayling as a senior member of cabinet, yet neither of them can touch May.

May in her closing is the same as May in her opening. Unidirectional and unreflective, what was previously extolled as her leadership qualities have become a Brexit-branded albatross around her party's neck. But she did it. Her downfall is thoroughly hers. She could have sought consensus in the Commons, she could have tried spreading the pain sooner, and bound Labour to a more reasonable and far less damaging deal. But no. She played Brexit for party political advantage, and when that backfired spectacularly at the last general election it was a matter of survival. She boxed herself in, closed off her options, and shut down her likelihood of success - with the added bonus that Tory recovery is going to be very difficult indeed. The left didn't design Theresa May, but if we had built a robot Conservative PM programmed to fluff Brexit and plunge her party into its worst crisis for two centuries, it could scarcely do more.