Whatever emerges from the dramatic imbroglio at Westminster, public confidence in any resort to referendums is being tested to the limit.
In Scotland, we had an independence referendum – and now the air vibrates with strident calls for another one.
In 2016, we had a UK-wide referendum on membership of the EU – and now persistent calls for a second “People’s Vote”.
The missing factor here is a concept relatively unexplored in political analysis until now – the Consent of the Losers. For without it, ordered government is in danger.
Until recently our unwritten constitution rested on a broad acceptance of voting outcomes: government administrations came and went and those who lost accepted the result, pledging though they did to put the new administration under scrutiny and improve their appeal to the electorate.
Now it seems that the outcomes of votes need not be treated as acceptable. So what is the point of referendums – or elections for that matter – if sufficient numbers refuse to accept the result?
Nothing is settled. Everything is contested. And round and round we go – in a deeply troubling corrosion of democracy.