Once again, this is no longer a question of policy but of worldview and culture. Brexit must still be done for that is what the people commanded but it can no longer be done in ways that command widespread acceptance. That is something close to a political tragedy and one that will have consequences.
There are no angels here. Leavers have been grossly cavalier with their language. Talk of traitors and surrender and enemies of the people and all the rest of it has had predictable consequences. It has poisoned the Westminster well and, wittingly or not, encouraged a harsher, more dangerous, public mood. That in turn has been reciprocated by Remainer radicalisation. It is not uncommon to discover ostensibly sensible people referring to Leavers as ‘Nazis’ and even if some of this is said in a yeah-no-but-yeah-probably kind of way it’s indicative of a wider trend. The spectacle of MPs, from all sides, being escorted from Parliament under police protection is beyond dispiriting. Sometimes it feels as though something could snap at any moment. And when it does, far from spawning unity and a sense that perhaps it is time to pull back from the brink, time to dial matters down a little, much of the country will declare that the other lot had it coming.
That, in the end, is on everyone. If there are shades of responsibility here no quarter is wholly innocent. That includes the press too. Until relatively recently few people (beyond their immediate families) had heard of Mark Francois or Andrew Bridgen or Richard Burgon or any of the other grotesques who, mystifyingly, have been elevated to extraordinary prominence in recent times. There is an element of cruelty here; a whiff of bear-baiting live from College Green. They are interviewed in the hope – indeed the expectation – they will say something stupid or provocative, not because they can tell us anything genuinely useful. It’s all about creating a buzz on social media.