A wise forecaster takes a cautious approach to prognostication. The Nostradamus technique is to make the predictions as vague as possible, open to interpretation so that they are unfalsifiable. The more sophisticated global warming catastrophists make predictions that can only be verified long after their death. So how foolish is it, therefore, to make predictions that may be falsified in a week?
However, with the Brexit dogs breakfast, there are as many possible pathways as there are pundits and any pundit worth their salt can pick a number from this lottery expecting that their failures will soon be forgotten, but be forever heroes for their foresight if they get it right. This is how the ABC political analysts operate (see for example the May 18 election) who even when they are hopelessly wrong, are still paid to turn up the following day.
This is the approach I have chosen.
The best way to understand what might happen with Brexit is to undertake an anatomical dissection of the players in the Remain field. In any revolt you have 4 groups.
1. The True Believers.
These are the fanatics who will risk everything for the cause. For them it’s “Remain or Die”. They give the revolt energy.
2. The Generals.
What drives them is not so much the cause, but the hatred of their opponents and the personal benefits they expect to see from the revolt. Board positions, Brussels appointments, and of course the destruction of their enemies. They consider their personal risk to be small, because they all have an exit strategy. They are cynics. They also provide the resources to organise the revolt.
3. The Principled Followers.
They do genuinely believe in what they are doing is right, and expect little personal reward for doing it, and for most there is little personal risk although they are willing to suffer minor inconvenience for the cause. Lenin would have called them the ‘Useful Idiots’. They give the revolt mass.
4. The Virtue Signallers
These are the people who want to be seen as being with the cool kids and what they are told is ‘the right side of history’. It seems to them to be relatively risk free, knowing they will receive a warm embrace from the media. They will continue to support the revolt as long as there are no consequences for themselves. They provide the revolt legitimacy as the leaders can say ‘we have people from both sides supporting this’. They are, in their own way, cynics. They will assure the leaders and the organising generals that they are right behind them, right up to the point that there is a personal cost to be had.
Boris has just told the Virtue Signallers that there will be consequences, that they will lose their careers. So, what would be their plan?
Up till now, supporting the revolt has been cost free, and even beneficial. As Tory backbenchers and nobodies who have previously been unwelcome in any BBC studio, they now get as much airtime as they want to criticise the government.
So firstly they may support the suspension of house rules because this doesn’t cross a line and they can just say they want more debate. The best outcome for them would be that the disparate parties can’t get their act together to table legislation that all revoltees can agree on, in which case it will fail, and they get to keep their virtue intact without exposing themselves to personal risk. This is the ‘having your cake and eat it’ outcome.
However, if there is a realistic chance that this legislation is likely to succeed, they will suddenly have a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment and vote against it at the very last moment, or be missing in action.
It only takes a few Virtue Signallers to do this for the whole Remain edifice to crumble. Revolts always look invincible until they aren’t.
The message is, never count on the Virtue Signallers for your revolution if there is a personal cost for them.