Mr Melding said Tories who loyally supported Theresa May have become rebels (Image: Western Mail)
Since the 2016 referendum on EU membership these qualities seem to have evaporated. August, usually the quietest month in politics, is this year full of foreboding and menace. The Government versus Parliament. Parliament against the People. No deal v No Brexit. Blue on blue. All seems confusion and conflict.
In this topsy-turvy world many Tories who loyally supported Mrs May’s deal with the EU have become rebels. Meanwhile the hard Brexiteers who frustrated Mrs May are now running the Government.
Despite a good claim to be the world’s oldest and most successful political party, Conservative unity seems under severe threat. The Party could be about to split.
The stakes could not be higher for Party or nation. British politics is in a fierce crucible that could make new loyalties and burn up old ones. The intervention of Philip Hammond demonstrates the point.
He asserts that Boris Johnson has no mandate to pursue a no deal Brexit. It would be he says a “betrayal of the referendum result”. The Prime Minister replied that “a terrible kind of collaboration” with the EU is apparent.
Not since the 1840s has there been this level of disagreement between senior Conservatives. Then Robert Peel adopted a policy of free trade against the wishes of many Tories. The Party was split for 25 years.
One question looms large. Just how far will the newly minted Tory rebels go to stop a no deal Brexit?
The most destructive option would be to support a vote of no confidence in their own government. This would tear up the tracks of traditional politics.
Jeremy Corbyn intends to propose such a motion as soon as possible when Parliament returns in September. He has even written to selected Tory rebels to set out his intentions should he replace Boris Johnson in No.10!
Fear of Mr Corbyn even as an interim PM has led to speculation that a government of national unity might be created instead. It would be led by a Tory grandee or a Labour MP less caustic than Corbyn.
Such a government would call a General Election before Brexit day or even govern long enough to hold a second referendum to confirm or cancel Brexit. Does this sound like a plan for national unity?
In any case to create a national government some Tory rebels would still have to expel themselves from the Conservative Party and support a vote of no confidence.
Surely this is a leap too far even for the most