Are some Brexiteers addicted to disappointment and frustration? Do they so crave the righteous indignation that flows from being thwarted that they are actively trying to sabotage their own project? How else to explain the extraordinary strategic incompetence of Tory MPs who say they want Britain to leave the EU yet behave in a way that makes it increasingly likely that Britain will not do so?
Brexit-backing readers may well dismiss my thoughts on Brexiteer strategy because I am, of course, a dreadful Remainer. More accurately, I voted to remain and I believe that leaving the EU will give the UK a range of possible futures that are less economically beneficial than those we’d have if we remained a member. And yet I think Britain should leave the EU, because that’s what Britain voted to do.
This is not a comfortable position to be in. Leaving aside the fact that some of my Remain-backing friends regard my stance here with varying degrees of horror, anger and sorrow, it means I often write in favour of policy that I believe to be economically second best. Yet that policy still has more democratic legitimacy than the alternative, so it should be enacted. Put another way, I believe that in June 2016, the British people voted to make themselves poorer and that politicians should grant their wish. HL Mencken had a point when he said that democracy is the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
The point of this self-referential aside is that my approach is one that sensible Brexiteers should seek to celebrate and encourage. Instead of resting on the simple fact of that 52 per cent in June 2016, good politics suggests that the way to get your way is to seek to add to the number of people supporting your view, to try to win over the people who once disagreed with you.
Instead, many Tory Brexiteers are taking precisely the opposite tack, and as a result now face the very real possibility that they will lose the prize many of them have worked for over years and decades.
This week, Leave-backing Tory MPs could have sealed their 2016 victory in law and political reality.