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A Prime Minister for Members

Theresa May is the frontrunner for the Tory leadership election. Right now I don’t rate the chances of Michael “I don’t want this job oh yes I do and where’s my dagger” Gove, her main rival.

May has firmly ruled out a general election before 2020. So have other prominent Tories.

This means our next Prime Minster for almost four years will be elected not by the voters but by Conservative Party members. They number around 150,000 in a country of 65 million people.

Typical arguments for this position often start with the Tory victory last year. The manifesto won. This is the programme. It will continue. Uncertainty and instability are cited as well. What, do we really need more?

I wonder what people will make of this. Last year’s manifesto is from another country. Everything has changed.

As for instability, it is already a given. For years, it seems. No one important wants to reach quickly for the Article 50 trigger. When it is pulled, there will be ill-tempered drudgery at best and insane chaos at worst. It is likely to last – this issue is as complicated as they come and European member states have a say too. They are hardly at one, to say the least.

So why not let people vote about how this should be handled? It could be fair, right and good for the Tories too. Tory prospects are plainly promising with Labour in the worst chaos for decades. A convincing win could also boost Brexit supporters, who are now the party’s official cause. This is what we want, they could say. We’ve made this clear not once but twice.

Yet surely this is where the doubts creep in. What about Nigel Farage’s raiding parties claiming votes if the Conservatives are “too soft”? What if Labour comes up with a new leader who will hit them hard? It seems very unlikely today, but then again 1992 was a wilderness and 1997 a paradise for Labour. It’s too soon to write the party off. British politics can change very quickly. In weeks now, not just a few years.

Nor is the Conservative Party adept at handling its own powder kegs, as we have seen this week. The infighting is the worst I have seen since the Major years, which is saying rather a lot about “the natural party of government”.

If it does come to pass that the Tories are seen to be “afraid of the country”, the crisis they say they will master will only get worse. We could do without that, really.