Last night’s vote served its purpose: more uncertainty as the spurious cover for a second vote.

Well I’m not sure where all that leaves us, but I do know that we don’t have a paddle. If I understand it correctly the parliamentary Conservative party has fallen for the following argument: that at a time of unprecedented chaos and instability it would be somehow unseemly to get rid of the useless person responsible for causing it. Let’s see how that works out for them. And the rest of us.

But never mind because the Prime Minister believes she is the one most suited to navigate these choppy waters and, indeed, she believes it with every fibre of her being.

It’s tempting to apply Mrs May’s own bespoke interpretive mechanism to last night’s vote. By this analysis she should be Prime Minister for about two thirds of the week. This, after all, was the presupposition behind her most egregious error: that a middle course between two mutually exclusive propositions is logically available. There are, indeed, systems of logic in which such things are possible. But the axioms of such systems are not themselves consistent with the world as we inhabit it. The problem with her Brexit “deal” is not merely that it is politically unsellable but that it embeds a set of logical contradictions. You cannot will away the laws of logic, not even with every fibre of your being.

There is, if you like, a clear conceptual distinction between reconciliation and accommodation. And it is a distinction May is quite capable of making when it suits her.

But it looks more and more as if this intellectual mistake has been handmaiden to a deeper, moral failure. Is it really ignoble, this developing suspicion that May’s purpose all along was to confiscate the disengagement process in order to turn it into a reattachment process? One of her own ministers said recently that the referendum result was in danger of reaching its expiry date. He was not slapped down.

Conservatives -real ones- will have sympathy with Edmund Burke’s observation that the structures of political and civil society involve obligations towards the dead and the unborn as well as between those who just happen to be alive right now. Our traditions express these obligations in ways that establish the type of continuity necessary for a country to survive as the same country over time. Those who argue that the referendum of 2016 can be superseded by a new referendum in 2018 are blind to this sensibility. The vote of two years ago remains a real event right here and now. And pace the likes of Tobias Ellwood that remains true regardless of how many Leave voters have subsequently and conveniently shuffled off this mortal coil.

Theresa May has made friends with uncertainty. It may well be that she asks her friend to do her just one last favour and provide her with the political context for a volte face on the issue of a “second referendum”. But a second referendum -with Remain as an option- cannot happen unless you set aside the first one. And if the first one is, as I suggest, an ongoing event then that is in essence a coup d’etat.

If that seems histrionic then allow me to make the point syllogistically. For a referendum to be legitimate it is necessary that those who participate in it have faith that its instruction be respected. No such trust is possible if a first referendum is set aside in favour of a second. Therefore a second referendum cannot be legitimate.

That argument is valid because it is impossible for its premises to be true yet its conclusion false. The question then is: are the premises true? Those who dispute their truth are obliged to show either that no covenant of trust is necessary for the legitimate operation of a referendum or that the covenant would remain intact in the febrile atmosphere in which such a plebiscite would take place. Good luck with that.

When people lose their faith in money then money ceases to be money. When people lose their faith in the political dispensation then it, too, ceases to exist. Those who argue for a second vote are actively taking that faith away. It would be like trying to replace the dollar with the rouble.

In addition to validity and soundness, arguments are either compelling or uncompelling. There is an ethical component to any argument in the sense that we can choose either to accept it or not. Just as we can choose to act badly we can choose also to believe badly. Those who campaign for the distastefully named Peoples’ Vote are beyond the reach of argument. That is where they have chosen to place themselves. They are not to be followed.

And neither, ever, is any politician who announces that they believe something with every fibre of their being. The proper objects of such beliefs lie beyond the seedy contingencies of the political process. Politicians who don’t get that are liable to go mad. Sometimes it takes 11 years for that to happen. Sometimes it takes two and a half.

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