The Conservative conference reached its high point today with the PM making her landmark pitch to re-assert her authority on both party and cabinet.
Yet the reality was not so much a high point - rather it was a somewhat tragic attempt by a leader who has lost the respect and faith of those she leads. Despite interruptions by comedic interlopers and a hoarse voice ( no doubt the result of too much repetition of that onerous phrase 'strong and stable leadership') Mrs May failed to make the impact she desired or allay the concerns over her strength of leadership.
Whatever we may think of the government and its leadership there are wider ramifications to consider. Think of this: should the government founder then there will be an election that will almost certainly open up the possibility of a Labour government; if Mrs May falls to a leadership contest within the Tory ranks then whoever replaces her (and there really are few contenders who have made their positions clear) then that new leader will need, very quickly, to seek a national mandate to lead - another general election; if the Conservative government just presses on, divided, split and with no unified objectives on what to do then it will continue to fail. The new strategies on energy, council housing, infrastructure investment and education are late in being dreamt up. They are reactive rather than constructively progressive and there is no guarantee that even these late in the day proposals can actually get through the parliamentary process. But the consequence of any of these outcomes will be a further fracturing of our national credibility, not least in front of the leaders of the EU as Brexit draws nearer, a further reduction in our ability to present a strategy that will permit Britain to move out into the wider world. These are serious possibilities that we must all weigh up, almost a Catch 22 scenario where whichever political course we follow we end up with a negative outcome.
Yet we need that fundamental change in our political climate, outlook and behaviour which is most unlikely to be a deliverable by any of the present, established parties. That requires a huge amount of faith in new, sometimes radical leadership and potentially completely new political groupings. It all sounds so fanciful that we might say 'How on earth can such a vast political manoeuvre be pulled off ?' It won't, of course, happen without electoral support and public pressure to see real change - which means it is down to Joe Public to continue to press for that change. And the only credible way for the electorate to express that desire is through the ballot box. So, back to square one - an election - but one created by electoral pressure rather than by political controversy.
An election is not an ideal scenario by any stretch of the imagination. It will compromise Brexit negotiations and almost certainly diminish the possibility of a satisfactory trade deal. Which brings us to the option of Plan B, the possibility of no deal and a walk-away from the EU. It is now a real possibility and one we should actively prepare for. It is, in truth, something we should have been preparing for long before now but political posturing and over-confidence have lad us fruitlessly down a long path to the point where there is little real time left to negotiate the deal that the government expected to pull off. If Plan B is the way forward then we should not shy away from demanding an election and allowing new political blood and leadership to take the reins.