THE bunting in colours of red white and blue gathers dust in the cupboard. The commemorative coins have been quietly recalled and the stockpile of English sparkling wine goes un-popped.

March 29 – the day billed as our historic exit day – came and went and we are still members of the European Union. The only flag flying high was the garish purple of Ukip, as pro-Brexit activists gathered in Parliament Square holding signs declaring that Remain MPs are “traitors”.

Inside what we are so often told is a “Remainer Parliament”, there was no jubilation or whoops of joy. That we got past that arbitrary date with our membership in place is no victory at all when the feeling of impending peril looms.

When, as was expected, the Prime Minister lost what for all intents and purposes was meaningful vote 3 by 344 votes to 286, the saga rumbled on. No crisis was averted, it was simply postponed for an unspecified point in the future when this sorry episode will have to be resolved one way or another.

The House of Commons is often comically boorish and errs on the side of the theatrical, but during the debate which preceded the Government defeat, it just seemed angry. Unstable coalitions of compromise, which have been sought and celebrated on both sides of the house, disintegrated completely.

This purgatory of high-stakes uncertainty has changed what should have been a decision taken in the national interest, to one of brazen political calculation.

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Theresa May, in offering to resign in return for her deal getting through Parliament, helped bring these behind-the-scenes deliberations out into the fore. Principled objections to the deal were discarded and the bombastic rhetoric of defiant Brexiteers dimmed to nothing more than a whisper on the wind, as they sized-up their future career prospects. Losing the vote will not dissuade those now on leadership manoeuvres; the Prime Minister can’t put that genie back in the bottle and would be foolish to even try.

Members speaking both in favour and against the deal asserted what they believed would be the consequence of their vote. Few agreed, and in truth, nobody knows with any certainty what will happen next.

The entangled mess of the last three years has been a tragedy for our democratic processes. There’s not been a trick or trade too dirty for the Government to deploy. The conventions of honesty and good faith have broken down completely to the point where assurances made from the dispatch box have been rendered meaningless.

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Violent rhetoric from both the media and parliamentarians has become the norm along with the death threats that stem from it.

I understand why some backbench MPs are so frustrated. They have been forced to plug the gaps in both May and Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre leadership styles while being vilified for it. They know that in this age of cowardly blame-game politics, the current government will be looking for a scapegoat when it all comes crashing down.

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The quiet nobility in accepting responsibility for your failures no longer holds any currency. Whatever happens next: General Election, long extension, People’s Vote, no deal or revocation of Article 50, the ultimate architects of it – May and her government – have already absolved themselves of responsibility.

The narrative will be written – though I do believe it will be widely viewed as a work of fiction – that weary backbench MPs and minority parties are at fault for whatever calamity has still to come.

The sadness of this all is that at a time when we desperately needed leaders – in the form of a unifying Prime Minister and a vaguely competent Leader of the Opposition – we instead got recklessness and naval-gazing.

May and Corbyn will be remembered for putting their party and personal interests before that of the nations of the UK. Too frit to mean what they say and say what they mean, they’ve let us all down. Their joint policy of being as vague and non-committal as possible was always doomed to fail. In a referendum that produced such a narrow result, division was inevitable. It is the job of leaders to begin from a point of principle – which at its most basic level means pursuing what you believe in – and then working to persuade, convince and create a consensus. It would have meant that many people within their own ranks were disappointed, but at least then we wouldn’t be in this intolerable muddle.

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Uncertainty prevails and while that it is certainly frustrating for MPs, many of whom have genuinely tried their best, its harm is felt most keenly in the lives of ordinary people.

A dearth of political courage has brought us to this point. We can only hope that in the weeks to come our leaders can manage to find some within themselves.