Hardcore Brexiteers have always been in the minority in the parliamentary Conservative Party and yet they have had considerable success.
In 1993, the normally mild-mannered John Major, then Prime Minister, was moved to describe three ‘Eurosceptic’ Government ministers as “bastards” who he only kept in his Cabinet to avoid them causing trouble outside it.
Eventually, their ideological descendants became the tail that wagged the Conservative Party dog and persuaded David Cameron to hold a referendum on the EU. He then discovered to his horror that this tail, with a bit of help from Nigel Farage and co, was strong enough to wag the entire country.
In December, however, they suffered a setback, failing to oust Theresa May as Conservative Party leader in a vote of no confidence. Winning by 200 MPs to 117 was hardly a ringing endorsement but, under current party rules, the contest protected her from another internal coup attempt.
Despite this – and May’s later pledge to quit after securing Brexit – last night the hard Brexiteers sought to change those rules to allow them to have another go at overthrowing her. They appear to hope to replace May with one of their own number, likely to be Boris Johnson.
It was a move redolent of what they might describe as their optimism, determination and drive. Others might see it as further evidence of their tendency to believe in – and sell – dangerous pipedreams.
If Prime Minister Johnson risks splitting the Tory party, that’s a price worth paying for them. If he fails to persuade the EU to give the UK a “have-our-cake-and-eat-it” deal, then a no-deal Brexit and the resulting economic damage and job losses are just too bad.
Another theory is that they realise they have no hope of changing the rules or renegotiating Brexit and simply want to create as much chaos as possible in the hope of achieving an accidental no-deal, by preventing any of the other options.
That no one sensible suggests a no-deal is in accordance with the “will of the people” as expressed three years ago doesn’t seem to matter. This muscle-bound dog’s tail has grown supremely confident of its strength and seeks to push us into a situation we did not vote for. Of course, there is one way to find out what the people think now and that is a second referendum.