LIBDEM leader Vince Cable missed a crucial Commons vote last week, reportedly because he was at a secret dinner party discussing the creation of a new anti-Brexit political party. Meanwhile, the odious Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, is busy raising cash from American and British sources to launch a right-wing “mass movement” in the UK – though what damn business it is of his, I don’t know.

Conclusion: post the Brexit referendum, the prospect of a major party realignment in Britain is on the cards. Of course, such realignments are frequently rumoured but very rarely take place. This is because the first-past-the-post electoral system makes it very difficult to break the grip of the Tory-Labour duopoly.

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The last time there was a major split – the creation of the SDP in the early 1980s by Roy Jenkins and the pro-EU Labour right – the project failed. At the 1983 General Election, the SDP-Liberal alliance grabbed a quarter of the UK national vote but this translated into a derisory 23 seats in Parliament. Effectively, the SDP had split the centre-left vote with Michael Foot’s Labour Party, allowing Margaret Thatcher to sneak a triple-digit majority with a minority of the popular vote. That experience has deterred others – on the right as well as the left and centre – from having another go at breaking the political mould.

Until now that is. Across the land, in pro-Leave pubs and at polite, pro-Remain dinner parties, the talk is exactly the same: “How the Hell do we get out of this Brexit mess?”

A pro-Remain Prime Minister is trying to force through an unworkable soft Brexit plan which is opposed by at least one-third of her own backbench MPs. At the same time, a (secretly) pro-Leave Labour leader is getting his troops to oppose Theresa May’s soft Brexit concoction, in the hope of provoking a General Election. However, even if Corbyn was to win a General Election, absolutely nothing would be resolved. He would attempt to hold his party together by offering a fresh version of a soft Brexit and (most likely) Theresa May’s successor as Tory leader would oppose anything Labour offered. Result: continuing confusion. Which is why something pretty fundamental is going to have to happen in the political firmament.

Revolutions only occur when the traditional ruling elite finds it cannot go on ruling in the same old way. And, additionally, when those who are ruled are no longer prepared to accept being ruled in the same old way. And that, folks, is precisely where we are today. Brexit is the immediate excuse but the real cause is that the British political system is kaput. Parliament grows ever more decadent and useless by the day, stuffed with ministers who spend their time sexting, with chief whips who break their word, and with politicians incapable of answering a question honestly or clearly.

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This explains why recent opinion polls show a growing willingness by the UK electorate to support alternative political voices. The danger, however, is that the political vacuum is being filled by forces on the extreme right. A recent YouGov poll showed that 38% of British voters would support a new party committed to a hard Brexit, with 24% in favour of an explicitly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party. As it is, polls since the resignation of Boris Johnson show a sharp decline in Tory support in favour of Ukip – despite the fact that Ukip hardly exists any more. Labour’s poll share is stagnating, suggesting that anti-government feeling is moving rightwards.

This mood shift is likely to see the return of Nigel Farage, either as Ukip leader or as head of some new, Trump-like mass movement – which may be where Steve Bannon’s money comes in. Or, conceivably, the Tory party might split, creating the possibility of a general merger of right-wing forces in the UK. That might include a role for a certain Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, aka the far-right poster boy Tommy Robinson, who spends his time trying to make fascist groups such as the English Defence League – which he led for four years – look more respectable, so they can attract middle-class electoral support.

My worry is that English working-class and petty bourgeois frustrations with parliamentary democracy (as presently experienced) will provide fertile soil for the same right-wing populism that has already emerged in America and France. Such a movement won’t care if, initially, it syphons off votes from Theresa May’s soft Brexit Tories, putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

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The right calculates (correctly) that any Corbyn government will implode, split irreconcilably between its left and neo-Blairite, pro-EU MPs. Remember: the new right wants to smash the present British political system – that’s why harking back to the failure of the old SDP to change things is irrelevant.

Faced with these dim prospects, the so-called political “centre” – representing essentially the English liberal middle classes – has been plotting a realignment of Tory and Labour Remainers with what’s left of the LibDems (hence Vince Cable’s mysterious dinner date). Moderate, pro-EU Labour and Conservative MPs have infinitely more in common with each other than with the Brexiteer wings of their respective parties.

However, I am doubtful of the chances of such a centrist regrouping emerging. First, because its pro-EU rallying cry has minority support in England. Secondly, because such a new movement lacks an obvious leader like France’s Emmanuel Macron. David Miliband is too conceited and would be laughed off the ballot paper by English voters.

One name that has been mentioned is that of Chris Coghlan, a telegenic former hedge fund manager who stood at the 2017 election for Renew, a recently-formed but tiny pro-EU party. My guess is that Coghlan or any other unknown would be trampled in the rush by dozens of has-been Tory and Labour MPs seeking the leadership of any new centrist outfit, but one thing above all stands in the way of a new middle-class centre party: it has no unifying national ideology to offer other than a vague reference to “Britishness”, much as did Gordon Brown at the start of his ill-fated premiership.

The populist right, on the other hand, can easily mobilise support using a thinly disguised English nationalism laced with anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-European sentiment.

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Here in Scotland, of course, the SNP have managed to combine a national sense of purpose with a centre-left vision of fairness. And Holyrood, whatever its weaknesses, seems closer to the people than the preposterous, hidebound gentlemen’s club that is the Palace of Westminster.

As a result, we do not need to fear the death throes of the antiquated British political system because it offers the prime prospect for a second indyref. But the SNP will have to keep their nerve. The only certain way to counter the rise of the populist right in Scotland is to appeal to the mass of working-class voters with a strong message that independence will make their lives much better. The more centrist message of Andrew Wilson’s Growth Report, which proposes 10 to 20 years of fiscal moderation, could prove a political gamble in any showdown with the populist right.