This week our neighbours, or at least a tiny minority of them, will select the next leader of the Conservative Party and, by extension, Britain’s prime minister Theresa May’s successor.
It requires a reckless generosity to even pretend that any of the contenders seem blessed with the statesmanship — there are no women in contention — an increasingly divided, stubborn and nativist Britain needs. A YouGov survey of Conservative Party members published yesterday shows how that regression spirals towards something incomprehensible and, well, bonkers.
The poll suggests that Tories would be prepared to sunder the United Kingdom, destroy their party and endure economic hardship to quit the EU.
Almost half — 46% — would be happy to see the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage as their next leader. Some would, however, prefer to abandon Brexit rather than see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
From an Irish perspective, especially from a unionist perspective, it is significant and in some contexts worrying that 59% would prioritise leaving the EU, even if it meant Northern Ireland quitting the UK. One-in-five said they would be happy to see NI leave, irrespective of Brexit.
These findings will hardly reassure the DUP. The survey raises a sobering prospect, even if it might resolve the border issue. If the challenges brought by a hard Brexit were sharpened by a change in status for NI and, possibly, a united Ireland then this society and this economy would face tremendous challenges.
Those challenges might be amplified by refusenik loyalists. Sadly, this survey reaffirms that many die-hard Tories are as indifferent to how their behaviour affects this island as they are ignorant about the situation created by their predecessors. Poor neighbours indeed.