ON the face of it, Theresa May appealing to Jeremy Corbyn to join the Tories in a deal to push Brexit through the Commons smacks of desperation. The Bearded One agreeing to this notion seems as wildly improbable as an asteroid sweeping out of the cosmos and obliterating life on Earth.

Wait a minute... the asteroid thing did happen.

We are living though strange political times. Strange and fractious enough for most possibilities to have at least a sporting chance of occurring, if only by accident. Let’s take Mrs May’s appeal at face value. How has she got here and how prepared is she to make sufficient concessions to win Corbyn over?

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The bottom line is that the Conservative Party are facing their Canadian moment and they know it. Back in 1993, the ruling and historically dominant Canadian Conservative Party lost all but two of its 156 seats in that year’s federal election.

This sudden, catastrophic defeat was brought about by the ineptitude of the party’s new female leader Kim Campbell (who lasted a mere 132 days as Prime Minister); by deep divisions inside the Canadian Tories; and by a general arrogance in the party that eventually spawned a host of political competitors who proved more attractive to the electorate.

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Canada’s Tory Party never recovered and finally dissolved itself a decade later, its rump merging with the populist, right-wing Reform Party (think Farage). Could the same process happen in the UK? Mrs May can hardly be called a charismatic leader or a strategic thinker. She only ended up as Tory leader by default when the Big Beasts like Johnson and Gove destroyed each other. In office but not power, May proceeded to negotiate an exit deal largely on the EU’s terms – so it came as no surprise that large numbers of Conservative MPs refused to back it.

Lacking political imagination or tactical flexibility, the “Maybot” simply kept putting this same deal to Parliament, which it had voted down repeatedly, alienating middle-of-the-road Tories as well as the mad English nationalists around Jacob Rees-Mogg. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking remorselessly towards a hard Brexit, forcing the PM to seek extra time from the EU. That triggered a new element in the Tory implosion: the return of Nigel Farage with his Brexit Party.

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Farage Mk II is a class act. He has shed the Ukip nutters, safe in the knowledge they won’t crawl back to Mrs May’s Tories. He has launched a new, populist party that carefully appeals (if disingenuously) to right-wing former Conservatives and to more leftish, former Labour voters. And he has been careful to pick sanitised candidates for his EU election list – a simple task Change UK failed with at the first hurdle. Farage is not a busted flush but a sophisticated populist who spouts racist demagogy with a “cheeky chappy” air.

Nigel Farage could be the nemesis of the Conservative Party. Which is why Theresa May is desperate to derail the EU election set for June 23. As a result, she is determined to have one last go at getting her soft Brexit deal through the Commons. To do so she needs Labour votes, which is why – despite the odds – May is prepared to make major concessions to Labour.

These include agreeing a prospective free trade zone with Europe (which big business wants) and accepting EU standards on workers’ rights and the environment. Her red line is refusing a second referendum – fortunately a caveat shared by Corbyn himself.

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The obvious fly in the political ointment is that any agreement between May and Corbyn could – would! – trigger a massive revolt in each of their parties. But the temptation must be there to sign up.

For May, a successful deal would abort the EU election and put Farage back in his box. That might give the Tories two or three years under a new leader to focus on domestic politics. For Corbyn – who just lost seats in core areas the English local elections – a deal might heal the Brexit divide among Labour voters. It would also undermine future Tory attempts to present Corbyn as ineffectual if they had negotiated a deal with him.

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That’s the theory. But the practice is far more difficult to achieve. For starters, there are those in the parliamentary Tory Party who are already thinking the unthinkable and preparing to kill off the Conservative brand in favour of a more youthful, populist and libertarian replacement.

In truth, the traditional Conservative political bloc has been eroding for decades. Conservative votes come mainly from the over-60s and rural areas (as in Scotland).

Even if enough Tory MPs were to support a May-Corbyn deal in the short run, it really would signal the end of the party. Farage would cry treason while the Tories ripped themselves apart in any subsequent leadership election. The only reason I can see for Change UK existing is to provide a bolthole for the centrist remnants of the Conservative Party after this explosion.

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As for Labour, remember that Corbyn’s main base among the membership is the Momentum group, with more than 40,000 youthful supporters. But Momentum are unswervingly in favour of a second EU referendum – as are the centrist Labour MPs who make up the majority of the parliamentary party.

I frankly doubt if Corbyn could get enough of his MPs to vote with May if there is no confirmatory referendum attached to the deal. Assuming he could deliver enough backbench votes to ensure Brexit, that would trigger the flight of middle-class Labour supporters to the Greens, LibDems and Change UK. Ergo, no Corbyn government.

In Scotland, these shenanigans will have catastrophic repercussions for the main Unionist parties. But it will by no means guarantee independence.

Watching Ruth Davidson and Richard Leonard justify a common front on Brexit would be fun, I agree. But in this moment of existential crisis for the UK political system, it is vital the Yes movement understands that Scottish independence won’t just fall into our open hands.

At the start of the 20th century, the British ruling class and its institutions were engulfed by a similar crisis. The country was rocked by a massive, anti-austerity strike wave; the Suffragettes were fighting for the vote; and the main political parties were divided over trade protection. Yet the one thing that united the ruling elite was denying Ireland Home Rule – to the point of resisting it with armed rebellion led by Edward Carson, who subsequently became Attorney-General in the British Cabinet.

With their system in deep trouble, the Unionist parties – old and new – will be more resistant to granting a second Scottish independence referendum. To let Scotland go – as it surely would if there was a referendum – is also to hazard losing Northern Ireland.

The British ruling class can stagger through a political crisis, but it dare not risk a collapse of the state itself. Which is why I think it will not be as easy as some in the SNP leadership think to persuade any of the London parties to agree another Scottish referendum within the next two years.

What then? The Suffragettes had an answer for that.