DOES last night’s vote on the leadership of Theresa May, settle a single aspect of the Brexit burach?

The answer was a resounding no, before a single vote had been cast. A defeat for the Prime Minister would certainly have been a dramatic outcome, plunging the country into even greater chaos. But the nightmarish prospect of Boris at the helm wasn’t any more likely to produce a Commons majority for his Brexit strategy (he does have one right?) or encourage deadlocked MPs to support a People’s Vote.

Why not?

Well if Theresa May had gone, not only would the Tory party have embarked on the most unlovely leadership contest of all time, but the “lucky” winner would have experienced the coldest of cold shoulders from European leaders before announcing (since the ERG candidates have already decided) that a no deal Brexit is the only viable course. At that point, having cast every rule about the conservative leadership process to the four winds, having run roughshod over Parliament (again) and having ignored escalating demands for a People’s Vote, the new Prime Minister would discover what he or she already knows – there is no majority for a hard Brexit in Parliament.

Much as one has come to know and dislike Boris Johnson, David Davis and Dominic Raab quite intensely over recent months and years, it’s hard to understand why any of them are so eager to run into a brick Commons wall quite that hard. Indeed, a Dominic Raab takeover might have been shocking enough to rouse Jeremy Corbyn from his present slumbers to actually call the vote of no confidence expected this week. There again, Jezza would rather ask worthy but irrelevant questions about poverty and universal credit until March 29th when Brexit happens and he may inherit a Fait Accompli Brexit – fighting an election on the noble “it wisnae me” ticket. But would another snap election won by the Labour Party be any more likely to resolve Brexit or simply usher in a new set of politicians, presenting yet another unworkable deal as viable in the face of Europe’s “non” and the absence of a “Middle Way” over the Irish border? Unlikely. So Britain would have gone through massive electoral upset, simply to find itself back at the same constitutional brick wall Theresa May faces today.

Of course any new hard-line Tory leader would have the whole-hearted support of Arlene Foster and her Democratic Unionists – but that would be small consolation for going down in history as the leader who (along with David “where is he” Cameron) destroyed the Conservative Party, in the massive split that would inevitably follow.

It was far more likely then, that Tory MPs would pass a vote of confidence in Theresa May’s temporary hold on office.


Having had to promise she will not lead the party into the 2022 general election to win, the prime minister may feel she’s seen off the hard right in her own party, but will rapidly find she’s simply kicking the same old cans just a bit further down the road.

Not only will her promise to go weaken her authority in forthcoming EU trade negotiations -- the really difficult stage of Brexit – and in that small matter of running the country, the PM must now resume her thankless and hopeless task of wheedling an assurance from European leaders, which can be passed off as a quasi-legislative guarantee. Otherwise, the troublesome Irish backstop will become terminally troublesome for her government and leadership.

It would be funny if it were not so tragic. Now the Tories and the rest of the UK will find out what it’s like to be palmed off with a hollow European Vow.

There’s no way the Tories can make this dreadful situation smell sweet. Even if a truly awful outcome has just been avoided, that doesn’t make Theresa May’s deal workable or good for the country. If the forces of political darkness have suffered a setback, Remainers – in Scotland at least - won’t suddenly warm to the architect of the greedy snap election, the woman who’s subjected the whole UK to the intransigence of the DUP, the leader implacably wedded to her own harmful red lines, the PM who alienated all the devolved administrations and the politician who remains tolerant of a cabinet member suggesting the prospect of famine should be resurrected to bully Ireland into political submission. Of course, the other thing that doesn’t change after last night’s leadership vote is the absence of Scotland from the entire Commons proceedings.

Despite excellent speeches, admirable Commons attendance, extraordinary success in winning a court case which allows MPs to take back control and unilaterally halt Brexit (Lib Dem Christine Jardine must be regretting her decision to bow out when the going got rough in the Court of Session now) – despite cross-party rejection of No Deal and Theresa May’s deal at Holyrood (minus the Tories), despite the SNP joining other leading opposition politicians to urge a People’s Vote and despite a verbal bust-up with Dennis Skinner – the SNP and Scotland have simply been airbrushed from the whole Brexit proceedings.

This too will remain unchanged, until Nicola Sturgeon decides enough is enough. Like many other Yessers, I hugely admire SNP MPs forcing themselves to turn up and argue as if anything they say might make the blindest difference to the Brexit debate. In fact all the outrage, oratory, sharp questions and bold statements have made not a single dent on Theresa May’s armour.

Until a second independence referendum is forcibly inserted into the proceedings, Scotland will continue to be regarded as an uppity “vassal nation” within the self-harming, Brexiting British state.

This much Yessers have always known. Happily opinion polls suggest undecided Scots are starting to share that perspective. Our job is to make newcomers feel welcome and find ways to turn their new open mindedness into curiosity, connection and a more definite commitment.

The Tories have managed to distract voters with this latest burst of political intrigue. That may buy them some time south of the border, but I expect the majority of Scots are now actively weighing up a whole new set of possible future options.

In Ireland the phone-in programmes are apparently full of talk about the prospect of a Brexit-prompted, United Ireland. Of course, no radio phone-ins on Scottish airwaves are bold enough to ask if independence is now being seen as a better option to Brexit here.

But with input from broadcasters or without, with a fair crack of the whip in the Brexit process or with none and with every political commentator telling Scots now is not the time, one thing’s clear.

It is coming yet …. for a’ that.

Let’s make it soon.