Theresa May is going, but the challenges facing the country will continue unchanged whoever becomes the next Conservative leader and our next prime minister.
Conservative MPs may blame the PM but the Brexit mess is the failure of the Conservative Party in government. They are divided, distracted and dysfunctional. Britain has a government that simply isn’t governing, and the next prime minister will face the same problems.
The Conservatives are a party in power that can’t string together a Queen’s Speech, daren’t bring in legislation and won’t call Commons votes. These are the very hallmarks of a functioning administration in our UK democracy, so this is not just a problem of political management, it’s a crisis of legitimacy in government itself.
Locking in the nation’s divisions though a Brexit referendum was David Cameron’s legacy, but so is locking into government a party that can’t govern with his fixed five-year Parliaments. In any other era, people would have been voting this week in a General Election, not a European Parliament election.
Many will worry about the uncertainty of yet another national vote, and it’s true that a General Election was held only two years ago. But since then it’s become clear that divisions in government have created the Brexit chaos and caused the failure to deal with crises on other fronts from housing to real wages to the NHS and foodbanks.
After Theresa May’s resignation, the public have a right to pass judgement on their politicians and to choose to elect a fresh parliament or change the government.
This is also what Britain needs at this point of crisis in Brexit. 120,000 Conservative party members with an average age of 59 can’t restore the next prime minister’s national authority in negotiations with Europe or democratic legitimacy in the task of bringing our country of 66million together again. Only the public can provide the mandate needed to deal with these profound challenges.
Of course Labour wants the chance to put our case to the country, to deal with the everyday struggles people face and heal the deeper divides between the many, who work hard and accept the rules, and the few, who set the rules and reap the rewards. People deserve this choice, and they deserve a say on both the plan for Brexit and the team to lead it.
Without a General Election, the next prime minister’s priority will be still be stitching together a Conservative government and managing party divisions, not leading the country. And as people see the new Tory leader face the same problems that have seen off the current one, the case and call for an Election will grow stronger still.
John Healey is the Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, and the shadow housing secretary