WITH the prospect of a no-confidence motion awaiting Boris Johnson’s administration when Westminster reconvenes in September, this week has been dominated by the question: what next? If the new administration cannot command the confidence of the House of Commons, could anyone credibly replace Downing Street’s newest resident without precipitating a General Election? And if so, who could credibly serve?

Fantasy is a familiar way for human beings to avoid confronting unlovely realities, but the narcotics Jo Swinson has been hitting this week are something else. Ruling out the leader of the opposition as a credible force to rally round, an apparently straight-faced leader of the LibDems said “what we need in the leader of an emergency government is a long-serving member of parliament, respected on both sides of the House”. Someone, she suggests, “like Kenneth Clarke or Harriet Harman, the father and mother of the house”. The case in their favour? “They are hugely experienced and – unlike Jeremy Corbyn or myself – are not seeking to lead a government in the long term.”

There are a number of gags in this short passage, but if we’re going to waste our days on psychedelic solutions to Brexit, why take a smaller dose? Why stop with Kenneth Clarke and Harriet Harman? Why not embrace the full magic realism of Britain’s first Very Centrist Coup?

It will begin with Joanna Lumley. In a storm of Gurkhas, she will march into King Charles Street, easily besting Dominic Raab in an arm-wrestling competition and reclaiming the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the nation. A crack squad of centrist matrons will ambush Michael Gove on his morning run and secretly render him back to Aberdeen in a barrel of herring. Gove will become an apologetic housemaster in his old school and live out his days teaching foggy-eyed children how to conjugate the verb “to love” in Latin.

Under the steely blue gaze of Mary Berry, these snowy Amazons will then take the entire Johnson clan into protective custody in the Tower of London. Stanley and Rachel will be given a nice cup of tea and a Bramwell slice for their troubles. Berry herself will be anointed as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Judi Dench will frogmarch Priti Patel to Heathrow and a grateful nation will take to their smartphones to watch the Essex MP flying back out of the country. Stephen Fry, inevitably, will be touching the hearts of strangers somewhere, somehow.

The coup will culminate when Her Majesty the Queen personally intervenes to ennoble David Attenborough. (If Betty cuts up rough at this stage in the plot, we can always replace her with Dame Helen Mirren. No-one will notice and the national treasure rating of the new regime will remain unaffected. Prince Charles may even be grateful for the warmer maternal presence in his life.)

Taking office from the Lords, Attenborough and his Victoria sponge junta will seize Downing Street. JK Rowling will replace Sajid Javid in 11 Downing Street. Press spokesman Alistair Campbell will explain to a grateful public that “he’s not the hero Britain deserves, but the one it needs”, and everyone will obviously accept that, no bother. When the idea of the UK’s departure from the EU is explained to the great British public in terms of the life cycle of the Thomson’s gazelle, Brexit will be cancelled and those who voted for it will politely admit they were jolly well mistaken, and will tour Britain’s towns apologising to their fellow citizens.

In its mercy, the new regime will sentence Jacob Rees-Mogg to Strictly Come Dancing, immediately rehabilitating the Somerset MP’s reputation despite his appalling array of social views, because life has taught us that nobody can really be a bad person if they’re game for hobbling through a rumba like a good sport. There will be a national day of celebration, with bunting, and Dame Vera Lynn will bring out a new patriotic single which is really quite good actually. The cold collation of chicken drumsticks will be unchlorinated and the minimum meat content of the sausage rolls will remain EU regulated. Holidays in the south of France will be secured, not just for this summer, but for the foreseeable future. All will be well.

The levity may seem misplaced. The risks of Britain tumbling out of the EU on Halloween are acute. The social and economic implications of such a policy are acute. I agree. But it is because of the seriousness of the stakes that this week’s doomed machinations from parliament’s radicalised Remainers have been so bleakly comic. You don’t need to support the end of the UK’s EU membership to hear the phrase “government of national unity” and begin to get a gurgling feeling in your lower colon.

You probably know my politics by now. I don’t want Britain to leave the EU, but if leave it must – and there is a democratic mandate for England and Wales to leave – it is in the strategic interest of Scottish independence for that departure to be on as close and friendly terms as possible with the bloc and its single market. For independence supporters, No-Deal Brexit should be very two edged. On the one hand, it seems likely to alienate more people in this country from the current dispensation at Westminster. On the other, it runs a coach and horses through the 2014 prospectus for independence. Nobody has ever run an argument for independence in circumstances when Scotland is inside and the rest of the UK is outside the EU without basic accords on borders, immigration and trade. Although it will pose a fresh series of opportunities and challenges for how independence can be argued for and realised in practice, I still believe independent Scotland’s best future is operating within the EU rather than outside of it, whatever lonely maritime journey the rest of the United Kingdom is determined to take.

I don’t think the key movers and shakers in this are bad people. They’re doubtless well-intentioned, sincere in their goals, doing their best with the material they feel they have. They’re just frigging useless at politics. They bring precisely the kind of political outlook to bear which gave Leave a majority in the 2016 referendum, and which in every likelihood would generate another Leave majority in the country if the EU poll was rerun as they demand. They seem to have learned nothing from Brexit.

Indeed, the only thing Swinson’s gambit seems remotely useful for is to provide the LibDems an attack-line when the inevitable happens, and an opportunity to blame Labour for the No-Deal Brexit which has been unsigned, unsealed and delivered by the Conservative Party. “We could have done something, but Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have the character to make the noble sacrifice of his own ambitions for his country,” Swinson will say, more in sorrow than in anger.

It’s a cynical turn. And when you consider that there are 247 Labour MPs in the House of Commons, and Swinson presides over a skeleton crew of just 14 – two of whom were elected on other parties’ tickets – who could be forgiven for asking who she imagines she is to dictate terms to the only party in contention to replace Johnson’s Tories in Downing Street about realistic compromise solutions to the present impasse.

There’s a phenomenon called “paradoxical undressing”, sometimes encountered by mountain rescuers and polar explorers discovering the aftermath of past expeditions. It is one of the stranger effects of hypothermia on the human body. When you find yourself caught in a blizzard and frozen to the bone, you might imagine you’d would want to keep on every scrap of gear to keep whatever body heat you still have in.

But it doesn’t always work like that. The body isn’t a rational organ. In extremis, more curious forces can take over human perceptions. When your core temperature plunges below 35 degrees centigrade, instead of feeling the numbing chill around you, the hypothermiac’s nerves can begin to feel hot, searingly so. In the eye of snowstorms and polar nights, humans throw off their gloves and peel off their woolly hats, only worsening their situation. The effects of this misperception are almost always terminal.

We seem to have reached the paradoxical undressing stage of Brexit. As the winds of No-Deal Brexit howl in, and the folk trying to avert No-Deal Brexit begin lose the feeling in their fingertips, there’s no time for Swinson’s self-indulgent and self-serving escapism. Don’t mistake that tingling feeling for warmth. Swinson’s cockamamie ploys are Adam and Eve-ing it straight into the snowdrift.