As each day passes a new snippet of detail, via an interview with a former aide or a passing comment by an old colleague, sheds more light on how David Cameron came to call and subsequently lose the Brexit Referendum. What is emerging is not a picture of political confidence and astuteness.
At every opportunity Mr Cameron is at pains to tell us he has no regrets about calling the referendum and his former aides explain how he felt he had no option but to do it. The case does not become more persuasive for being repeated. The former Prime Minister’s memoirs are due out later this year but it is hard to see how anything he might say will do anything to lighten the sense of failure that crushes his political reputation.
This week Theresa May made yet another valiant attempt to sort out the chaotic political legacy she inherited and to avoid a similar political fate to her predecessor.
It was the great French soldier Marshall Foch who said: “My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.” Mrs May’s approach to Parliament is similarly heroic. Despite a shattering defeat in the House of Commons May spent last weekend re-grouping and then launching a counter-attack. There is an extraordinary determination, a defiance as well as a resilience, that demands respect.
The political fortunes of any previous Prime Minister would surely have been blown to pieces by the number and ferocity of attacks and defeats that Mrs May has endured. Still, away from the fraught issue of Europe, her government is doing useful if little noticed work. The latest is the Domestic Abuse Bill from Justice Secretary David Gauke. Damian Hinds is doing important work at Education, as is James Brokenshire, Penny Mordaunt and Michael Gove in their respective departments.
Extraordinarily, at the Cabinet Office David Lidington has found time to oversee some much needed reform in government procurement and service delivery, on top of everything else he is contending with.
Yet Europe, the terms of our departure and the nature of our future relationship, hangs like the sword of Damocles over British politics.
Britain has always been an uneasy member of the European Community/Union. No Prime Minister, not even Tony Blair in his full pomp, has been able to settle us into the heart of the European enterprise. Always there is the nagging feeling that we have somehow been rolled over or taken advantage of has dogged our participation. The great British successes of the Single Market, the rebate, and the opt-outs, have done little to warm the British to the project. The truth must be that after over forty years of more or less continuous debate we demonstrated in the 2016 referendum that the case for membership had not been made. But we should not be in any doubt about the challenges that now confront us, and are currently confounding Parliament.
For those who wanted the referendum to shake up our politics their wish is coming true. Brexit is already shaking up the political system. Its impact extends across every area of public and private engagement. While it is business and trade that attracts all the attention, our diplomacy, public administration, the voluntary sector and culture are all affected.
Brexit is not, and never has been, simply about business and trade, though. If it was we would not be doing it because the overwhelming business view is that we should not leave the European Union. Incidentally, it is increasingly clear too that it is SMEs that will be particularly hard hit by a disorderly Brexit, but that seems to carry little weight at Westminster.
The Brexit crisis is at its heart a confusing cultural issue - dividing people across class and educational lines, and smashing traditional party divides - and that is why it is being so hard fought. It is unsettling and disrupting many people's established sense of identity. One, of several, Brexiteers triumphs to date has been keeping the focus on the narrow issue of business and trade, because what lies beyond that is complex. A proper reckoning cannot be put off for ever. After Brexit happens, pulling Britain back together again is going to take painstaking work to understand and address the deeper cultural causes and impacts of this upheaval. It will not be easy.