UK politics has been in utter turmoil since the country voted to leave the European Union last Thursday, and it’s completely understandable if you’re confused.
This excellent Facebook post from Benjamin Blaine underscores just how batty the whole situation is:
On the off chance that doesn’t clear things up, here’s the plain-text explanation (be sure to also check out Zack Beauchamp’s explainer).
the leader of the opposition campaigned to stay but secretly wanted to leave, so his party held a non-binding vote to shame him into resigning
Translation: Jeremy Corbyn, the notably left-wing leader of the Labour Party who's long been distrusted by fellow Labour members of Parliament, was pressured by his party into campaigning to stay in the EU, even though he thinks the EU is an evil tool of international capitalism.
Those MPs think he was at best ineffectual, and at worst actively sabotaged the campaign to stay in the EU, and so held a no-confidence vote on Tuesday. He lost, with 75 percent of MPs voting against him. But he's not actually required to resign after that, so to force him out the MPs are putting together a challenge to his leadership, probably by Angela Eagle, a longstanding, widely respected Labour politician.
…so someone else could lead the campaign to ignore the result of the non-binding referendum which many people now think was just angry people trying to shame politicians into seeing they'd all done nothing to help them.
Translation: Eagle or whoever beats Corbyn — if they beat Corbyn — would be under considerable pressure to come out in favor of ignoring the Brexit referendum. The referendum wasn't actually binding, and the prime minister or Parliament as a whole could find a way to ignore it and stay in the EU.
That could be very politically costly, but there’s also a narrative emerging that many "Leave" voters didn’t really mean it and just wanted to stick it to the political establishment. These people now regret their vote, so the argument goes, and thus wouldn’t really mind if their vote didn’t wind up leading to an actual exit from the EU.
Meanwhile, the man who campaigned to leave because he hoped losing would help him win the leadership of his party, accidentally won and ruined any chance of leading because the man who thought he couldn't lose, did - but resigned before actually doing the thing the vote had been about.
Translation: Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, was in favor of Brexit and campaigned in favor of leaving the EU. After the Leave side won, he became the immediate frontrunner to replace Cameron as head of the Conservative Party and thus prime minister.
But he ultimately decided not to run, in part because Cameron has refused to actually take the steps necessary to cause the UK to leave the EU. That means that Johnson, had he won, would’ve had the thankless task of actually leaving, which he knows could have major disastrous economic consequences for which he’d then be blamed.
Cameron is the "man who thought he couldn't lose": He called the Brexit referendum thinking there was no way it could win but that it’d keep more anti-EU voters on his side. Then, of course, his side did lose — but he resigned before having to actually go through with Brexit.
The man who'd always thought he'd lead next, campaigned so badly that everyone thought he was lying when he said the economy would crash — and he was, but it did, but he's not resigned, but, like the man who lost and the man who won, also now can't become leader.
Translation: George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer (head economic policymaker) and Cameron’s right-hand man, was widely viewed as a likely successor to Cameron, just as Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair after serving as his chancellor.
Osborne campaigned against leaving the EU, touting estimates from his office saying the economy would implode. Those estimates were widely seen as non-credible due to Osborne’s history of using fishy numbers to defend austerity policies, which damaged the campaign to remain and doomed his bid to succeed Cameron.
Which means the woman who quietly campaigned to stay but always said she wanted to leave is likely to become leader instead.
Translation: This is a reference to Theresa May, the fiercely anti-immigration Home secretary (the position in charge of crime policy and immigration), who is now the frontrunner to succeed Cameron as head of the Conservatives and prime minister. She publicly campaigned to stay in the EU, but like Corbyn was viewed as a lukewarm supporter of "Remain," and made comments about the need to further crack down on immigration that arguably hurt the Remain campaign.
Which means she holds the same view as the leader of the opposition but for opposite reasons, but her party's view of this view is the opposite of the opposition's.
Translation: May’s anti-immigration skepticism of the EU comes from a very different place than Corbyn’s anti-capitalist skepticism, but they are weirdly aligned in this moment. The opposition party, Labour, is staunchly in favor of the UK remaining in the EU, and is therefore horrified by Corbyn’s apparent lukewarmness, whereas many Conservatives supported leaving and therefore aren’t angry with May over her lukewarm support for the Remain campaign.
And the opposition aren't yet opposing anything because the leader isn't listening to his party, who aren't listening to the country, who aren't listening to experts or possibly paying that much attention at all.
Translation: The Labour Party isn’t doing much to counter the Conservative Party at the moment because the former is currently embroiled in infighting between Corbyn and the rest of the party. Corbyn supporters argue that the rest of the Labour Party is out of touch with rank-and-file Labour supporters who overwhelmingly voted for Corbyn to be leader last year.
The last part about the country not listening to experts or paying much attention at all refers to the idea that regular Britons were fed up with "experts," and that this led them to be skeptical of claims that a Brexit would lead to economic catastrophe.
However, none of their opponents actually want to be the one to do the thing that the vote was about, so there's not yet anything actually on the table to oppose anyway.
Translation: Although most of the Conservative Party supported the Leave campaign, and though May is promising to implement Brexit if elected, no one really wants to be the one to pull the trigger, given the massive economic disaster likely to follow. No one wants to be a prime minister who presides over a recession and gets ousted in the next election.
So the Conservative Party isn’t really considering invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union yet, which would need to happen for the Brexit vote to be implemented. Which means that there’s nothing concrete happening that the Labour Party can directly oppose.
And if no one ever does do the thing that most people asked them to do, it will be undemocratic and if any one ever does do it, it will be awful.
Translation: Not Brexiting after the British people voted to leave would be clearly undemocratic. But Brexiting will also probably cause a recession and huge human misery. This puts all policymakers in a very awkward position.