"Now is not the time" was Theresa May's baffling reply when Nicola Sturgeon said that now is not the time for an independence referendum, and that a vote should instead be held in about eighteen months or two years from now. The Prime Minister's explanation for refusing the instantaneous referendum that no-one had asked for was that it would heap more uncertainty onto an already uncertain situation.
Coincidentally, that was also her rationale for ruling out a snap general election – until, of course, the Welsh mountain air made its mysterious intervention and transformed her into someone who very much believes that now is the time for the country to be treated to even more uncertainty than the uncertainty it's already enjoying. No, wait, that's unkind. She's actually claiming to have changed her mind after realising that a democratic vote would have a purging effect and put an end to some of the uncertainty. On the face of it, this shows a commendable capacity to admit after careful reflection to having made the wrong judgement.
There's just one snag, though. Precisely the same logic ought surely to apply to an independence referendum. Postponing a referendum simply ensures that the uncertainty lasts for much longer, and therefore in the light of the Prime Minister's sudden epiphany, it clearly makes sense for IndyRef 2 to be brought forward. But it seems to be a futile exercise to look for any logical consistency on the vexed question of whether now is the time for something to happen or not, which can apparently only be settled by everyone accepting that one leader's arbitrary and ever-changing verdict must never be disputed.
"Politics is not a game" was Ms May's haughty reproach to Nicola Sturgeon when the point was made that the people of Scotland should decide for themselves how to resolve the incompatibility of their narrow rejection of independence in 2014 and their decisive embrace of European Union membership in 2016.
It wasn't entirely clear how a commitment to that immaculate democratic principle constituted game-playing, but the Prime Minister has since maturely demonstrated the steadier path by casually tossing aside an absolute and constantly repeated promise not to hold a snap election, because she happened to see some opinion polls over the last few days that suggested it would be in her own self-interest to do so. If she repudiates the playing of games any more comprehensively than this, people may start to mistake her for Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister is tossing aside a constantly repeated promise not to hold a snap election, because she happened to see some opinion polls over the last few days that suggested it would be in her own self-interest to do so
Perhaps you were under the impression that the only conceivable purpose for holding an election at any time is to allow the public to listen carefully to the arguments and make an informed choice about the future direction of the country? If so, think again. It seems it is unnecessary for there to be TV leaders' debates this time around because "the choice is already clear".
Any confused voter begging to differ on that point will be out of luck, because one leader has unilaterally decided that this will be an election-lite in which a campaign is barely required. Indeed, it's scarcely worth the bother of even thinking about how you want to vote, because the same leader has decreed that the country is uniting behind her, and that the sole function of this election is to instruct Parliament to follow suit.
Back in the real world, opinion polls tell a very different story. They suggest that the public are still just as divided on Brexit as they were last June, and that the Conservatives remain significantly short of outright majority support. So is the Prime Minister's bizarre insistence that unity exists a troubling sign of delusional thinking, or is it just sheer arrogance – a demand that the country must yield to her preferred reality?
Many of us would much prefer not to even have to ponder that frightening question. It's murderously hard to understand why this unpredictable, autocratic, sanctimonious, dissembling, self-serving and faintly ludicrous politician isn't seeing her pitch to the electorate laughed out of court, and instead stands on the brink of an unprecedented landslide triumph. The excuse of weak opposition under Jeremy Corbyn is an easy one, but it's really not good enough. Britain's increasingly multi-party system offers a wide range of alternatives, and yet more than 40% of the country are willing to back Ms May, seemingly with a degree of enthusiasm.
All of this leaves the one part of the UK that is immune to the Prime Minister's inexplicable charms with a huge decision to make in June. Scotland clearly couldn't have been any part of the calculation on whether to call a snap election, because the decision rips apart the Tory strategy for kicking an independence referendum into the long grass. The idea had been to argue (unconvincingly) that the SNP's existing mandate wasn't specific enough, and that Nicola Sturgeon would have to wait patiently until elections in the early 2020s to put that right. Instead, the opportunity to reinforce the mandate is now only a few short weeks away, and opinion polls currently suggest it will be seized with both hands.
For the SNP, the coming contest will be part-election, part-morality tale. Scottish voters will be repeatedly invited to cast their eyes South, and to draw the obvious conclusions from their incomprehension at what they see. If a nation simply can't understand the basis on which others are deciding its future, the time has come to opt out of the game altogether. If nothing else, we can at least raise a glass to the impulsive Theresa May for unexpectedly helping us to fast-track that process.