There’s going to be a new PM by mid July. If Boris makes into the final vote of Tory members he will almost certainly win. But his team are nervous that he might not get that far. They are betting that it will become axiomatic after Sunday, that only he can repel Farage and the Brexit Party ascendancy and that MPs will set aside personal animus toward him and back him.
Dominic Raab, the obvious alternative, has a very smart team behind him but my gut instinct is that MPs will not consider him to have enough about him to usurp Farage. Gove hasn’t declared and still might (possibly with Matt Hancock) nor has Penny Mourdant who is the dark horse in the race.
But it is Boris’s to lose. Then what?
Well if the EU maintain their position of not reopening negotiations then we are surely headed for either a no deal Brexit or an autumn General Election. Farage has this last three weeks normalised the idea of a no deal Brexit. Boris will know that he may have to embrace it very soon. I still suspect he would lose a vote of confidence in the Commons if he tried to pursue it and would then have to call a General Election (and de facto 2nd referendum) or no deal vs revoke. If that is the trajectory, expect him to plunder HMT in his honeymoon period with eye catching spending pledges, tax cuts as well as scrapping HS2, the third runway at Heathrow and unleashing a raft of environmental policies (he has become a zealous Green convert of late). He will want to own ‘the end of austerity’ narrative before he commits to a general election against Corbyn denuding Labour of their most potent election weapon.
I don’t think Labour can sustain their current Brexit position. Can they carry it off convincingly under Corbyn or are they condemned to lose for good their former base of northern and midlands working class voters?
I can’t see any upcoming scenario which is a happy one – we have taken to the ideological trenches on this, and in even numbers. As a lonely supporter of May’s deal as a Remainer who accepted that Brexit has to be enacted, I still wonder if we will rue the days when it could have passed and lament the day it all became too much for Theresa May.