A New Year approaches, and what shall it bring in politics?
I'm hoping that this year the Conservative Party splits, but the future is likely to be far more complex than this.
Had the 2016 referendum been won by remain, the Tory party would have split there and then, as some would have gone off to campaign beyond the referendum, in a kind of 'no this matter has not been solved' manouvre, to the benefit of UKIP.
Because leave won, the Tory Party stayed together, and it was Labour who split via recriminations over Jeremy Corbyn's lack of enthusiasm for remain. What put Labour back together again, in a sort of way, was Jeremy Corbyn improving the Labour vote to remove the Tory majority. Thus, just as remainers have stayed with the winning leavers in the Tories, so Labour centrists and broad left MPs have stayed with Corbyn.
However, two years down the line, the likelihood would be otherwise. The need to make a decision about leaving the EU will strain the remainers to the limit. What is clear is that the leavers and remainers, even with attempts to compromise, cannot stay together.
The reason is this. That one-time Remainer, Prime Minister Theresa May, identifies that staying in the Single Market and Customs Union is not leaving. Yet this is precisely the compromise that remainers will stomach, and only this, especially now that Ireland and Northern Ireland can only have a border like now if the UK stays in the Single Market and Customs Union via the European Free Trade Area.
So far Labour, in its lack of clarity, has edged more towards accepting the Single Market and Customs Union, but it doesn't (and Corbyn seems to want to practice his socialism outside of these), then Labour will not hold together either. Also the trick of Labour attracting remainers while having a policy also of leaving the European Union will come to an end.
First of all, Tories unused to rebelling have now experienced success. They have drawn blood and also caused the government to swerve in their direction regarding not having a fixed date of leaving set in legislation beyond Article 50. There are now an increasing number of Labour side MPs and peers actively promoting at the least remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union, and indeed saying more loudly about staying in the EU. Some have been silent: I've heard nothing from David Lammy, for example, who was for staying in the EU after the referendum vote.
At the same time, it has been disappointing that the Liberal Democrats have made so little traction on the remaining in the EU argument. I would harden their position up to beyond a referendum, rather to agree with Kenneth Clarke - referenda are lousy devices for deciding complex issues. They need to say, if you vote for us in a General Election, then you vote to stay in the EU. Forget the nonesense of a second referendum: referenda are not sacred cows. It is parliament that is sovereign, and the people through its representatives. They are not our delegates either. A referendum should only ever be used after a government has produced a firm position for change and then asks for confirmation. The Scottish Referendum was an example: the Scottish Government proposed independence and the people said no. The EU was a referendum gamble for a political party that could not make up its mind. On that basis alone it was illegitimate and no one should be troubled by opposing it completely. We now know that the issues were not raised in their compleity that have since emerged in the tortuous process of a government trying to negotiate from its own divided cabinet and party.
The idea that we can be outside the Single Market and Customs Union, and yet have the near equivalent and thus satisfy the Irish border and needs of business and financial services is a pipe dream. These institutions exist to have common standards, and so the arbiter is the European Court of Justice. You don't reinvent the wheel just to satisfy the fantasies of extreme Tory MPs.
While all this goes on, of course, there are needs of citizens going unaddressed. Housing, social services and transport are key needscrying out for attention: the latest is bailing out a private operator of the East Coast Main Line rather than have the nationalisation that once operated successfully there. A bail-out, as well as being ideological for the Tories' friends, is quick and simple. We need attention on these necessary issues but the government 'does not have the bandwidth' to focus on anything but the disaster of leaving the European Union.
If a Centrist Party emerged (and it probably won't: the reality is more likely to be informal), it would have to exclude the likes of Frank Field. He votes with the government on leaving the European Union, as the Centrist group/ party would be pro-European. The Liberal Democrats have got to make a real effort at working with these people, as well as into the media and putting the issues clearly. We do not need another referendum, but it still needs an identifiable change of public opinion feeding into the political system.
The Tory split to come is more than eleven MPs, even though (with the Labour two supporting the Tories) these were enough to inflict a defeat. It will manifest as the government fails to take up the simpler Single Market and Customs Union 'solution' to leaving the EU.
If Labour does not move to this position, it will also be weak, but to move to it would also lose a body of its MPs well beyond the rebellious two. However, the mathematics of the House of Commons (and the fixed term Parliament Act still applies) is that the Single Market and Customs Union 'solution' has a majority across the House.
Theresa May has argued against this, and she probably would fall if this were enacted. She or someone would have to probably get a coalition from across the parties that command this majority on this issue. This is also how a truly 'Brexit Election' could come about, and where the Liberal Democrats must step up to the plate, and where even deals might be done in some cases on this issue.
So politics in 2018 could be very interesting, with fissures and splits and combinations unimagined before 2016. But it will come through extreme strain in the system, with Theresa May run out of options, and even Corbyn out of place, his dreams of a socialist government overrun by this burden around all our necks.
Until, of course, someone says stop this madness, and the UK stays precisely where it is, and as part of the EU keeps all its business secure, and then gets on with tackling social and infrastructure necessities that are being ignored.