As historical events go, that was – this is – a monumental one.
One thing we can be certain of is that the implications of Brexit are enormous.
Politically, nationally and economically.
But whilst we know that the implications will be wide reaching, detail is very hard to come by. The issues are simply too big, too amorphous, too unknown to be able to say anything with any certainty.
We’re not just about to experience a change of government, but rather a change in how we ‘do’ government. The UK will be leaving the EU, but will we see Scotland leave the UK in turn? What will be the impact on the EU itself? And the economic impact will be felt – perhaps only in the short term, perhaps for decades to come – but by whom, in which sectors and will there be an economic pay off for Brexit?
So, in the spirit of the best political analysis, when faced with so many unknowns cloaked in so much desire to know everything, I will do the most sensible thing: stick to the subject I know best – politics – and guess! Let’s start with the Conservatives……
David Cameron has already signalled his intention to step down as PM in October. His long term ally George Osborne looks to be precariously placed. After months of u-turns and disastrous budgets, he is now associated with a failed campaign and accusations of fear mongering. Expect him to go even sooner than his boss.
Clearly, Boris Johnson’s position has been strengthened by the vote for Brexit. He has the public reputation and political capital to stake a claim for the top job, but he’s unpopular within the Conservative Party, and history teaches us that those who wield the sword rarely wear the crown. While Cameron resigned out of choice rather than because of being challenged, Johnson’s decision to support Brexit was widely interpreted as a shot at the top job. Perhaps the Party will prefer someone with less muck on their hands.
Which brings us to the Home Secretary, Theresa May. She managed to steer a fairly calm path through the rocky waters of the referendum, supporting a remain vote but still being strong on migration whilst largely keeping herself out of the more unpleasant side of the campaign. She’s my tip for the Premiership.
If Osborne is to leave Government in the coming days or weeks, it will be David Cameron who appoints his successor. A pro-Brexit Chancellor would be the most obvious choice and the PM’s friend and long term ally, albeit a recent opponent, Michael Gove, would be an obvious choice. It would perhaps help to begin healing the rifts that have grown within the Conservative Party and could potentially allow for some continuity once a new leader is appointed in the autumn. The dark horse that has been mentioned in some quarters is Anna Soubry, who has Treasury experience and has proven to be a well-respected minister. She too, supported Brexit. However, Michael Gove’s intelligent approach to campaigning, vast experience and respected status within the Party should see him claim the keys to Number 11.
Let’s turn to the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn finds himself in a curious position. Labour was officially pro-remain but Corbyn’s loyalties to the EU were never more than skin deep and his half-hearted campaigning had drawn criticism from his own party even before the results came in. Corbyn will cling to the notion that his Eurosceptism mirrored that of the grassroots of his Party, but with news that Anne Coffey and Margaret Hodge have already tabled a motion of no confidence in him, time is probably running out for a man already deeply unpopular with the parliamentary party. I expect him to be gone within weeks.
If he were to be deposed, there aren’t the plethora of candidates lining up to replace him that can be found across the floor of the Commons on the Tory benches. With the change in demographic of members of the Labour Party, internal divisions, accusations of antisemitism and, currently, little prospect of winning an election in 2020, does anyone really want the job? Plus, some of those who would be considered contenders have already announced that they will seek election as city mayors.
But much of this will be academic if Jeremy Corbyn manages to secure enough nominations from his colleagues to put his name on any leadership ballot. The influx of his supporters into the party over the last year could make his election inevitable. Will Labour MPs learn their lessons from 2015 and deny him a spot on the ballot?
If they do, then Dan Jarvis and Hillary Benn are two possible candidates with good reputations and fairly high profiles. Tom Watson, current deputy leader, has relatively short odds from book makers as well. Yvette Cooper, defeated by Corbyn for the leadership in September, has only enhanced her reputation from the backbenches and is one of the few Labour MPs with the experience and gravitas to become party leader.
And currently at odds of 10/1….Mr David Miliband.
Whatever happens over the coming days and weeks, there’s only one thing about which we can be entirely certain. The UK is about to enter one of the most turbulent and unknowable periods in its recent political history. Expect the unexpected…….