A conundrum central to the downfalls of the last four Tory premiers – Margaret Thatcher, John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May – it now threatens to overwhelm the next PM before they have even moved into Downing Street.
This much is clear after Chancellor Philip Hammond effectively pre-announced his resignation on national television by saying that he would not serve under Boris Johnson if, as expected, the ex-Foreign Secretary succeeds Mrs May as leader.
An unprecedented departure, he is not alone. Justice Secretary David Gauke has done likewise and others intend to quit their posts on Wednesday, immediately after Mrs May’s final appearance at PMQs, because they’re so appalled by Mr Johnson’s threat of a no-deal Brexit and don’t wish to afford him the satisfaction of sacking them.
Yet, while Mrs May’s removal from 10 Downing Street has emboldened Brexiteers who believe that they are now in the ascendancy, Remain-supporting Tories are being alienated to such an extent that they will effectively become the new ‘rebels’ on the Tory backbenches.
In this regard, nothing will change when the handover of power takes place – the new PM, bereft of an overall majority, will probably find negotiations with their own backbenchers to be just as troublesome, if not more so, than talks with the EU.
All this at a time when the country at large is crying out for progress on all those domestic reforms which have been subsumed by Brexit. And, regrettably, the well-intended interventions of business leaders at the CBI, and many others, will continue to count for nothing until the Tories – and the Government – have a genuine unifying leader at the helm.