Mr Melding said Tories who loyally supported Theresa May have become rebels
Since the 2016 referendum on EU membership these qualities seem to have evaporated. August, usually the quietest month in politics, is this year full of foreboding and menace. The Government versus Parliament. Parliament against the People. No deal v No Brexit. Blue on blue. All seems confusion and conflict.
In this topsy-turvy world many Tories who loyally supported Mrs May’s deal with the EU have become rebels. Meanwhile the hard Brexiteers who frustrated Mrs May are now running the Government.
Despite a good claim to be the world’s oldest and most successful political party, Conservative unity seems under severe threat. The Party could be about to split.
The stakes could not be higher for Party or nation. British politics is in a fierce crucible that could make new loyalties and burn up old ones. The intervention of Philip Hammond demonstrates the point.
He asserts that Boris Johnson has no mandate to pursue a no deal Brexit. It would be he says a “betrayal of the referendum result”. The Prime Minister replied that “a terrible kind of collaboration” with the EU is apparent.
Not since the 1840s has there been this level of disagreement between senior Conservatives. Then Robert Peel adopted a policy of free trade against the wishes of many Tories. The Party was split for 25 years.
One question looms large. Just how far will the newly minted Tory rebels go to stop a no deal Brexit?
The most destructive option would be to support a vote of no confidence in their own government. This would tear up the tracks of traditional politics.
Jeremy Corbyn intends to propose such a motion as soon as possible when Parliament returns in September. He has even written to selected Tory rebels to set out his intentions should he replace Boris Johnson in No.10!
Fear of Mr Corbyn even as an interim PM has led to speculation that a government of national unity might be created instead. It would be led by a Tory grandee or a Labour MP less caustic than Corbyn.
Such a government would call a General Election before Brexit day or even govern long enough to hold a second referendum to confirm or cancel Brexit. Does this sound like a plan for national unity?
In any case to create a national government some Tory rebels would still have to expel themselves from the Conservative Party and support a vote of no confidence.
Surely this is a leap too far even for the most despairing Tory rebel? But we should remember that Boris Johnson has the most slender hold on office.
Just one or two rebels would be enough to bring down the Government. No wonder Downing Street is on election alert.
Fears of Corbyn becoming interim prime minister could lead to national unity, says Mr Melding
An alternative path is much more appealing to Tory rebels. This would be an attempt to block a no deal Brexit in Parliament without bringing down the Government.
A law could be passed to postpone Brexit day and allow time for the deal with the EU to be re-negotiated.
If such a procedure is possible it would come at less cost to Tory rebels. They would argue that such tactics are similar to those used by Tories who opposed Mrs May’s deal.
And they would point to the 2017 Conservative manifesto which is still a valid mandate to secure “the best possible deal for Britain as we leave the EU delivered by a smooth, orderly Brexit”.
Dominic Cummings is reported to believe that time has run out for Parliament to act in this way. Here we enter very murky waters.
However the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has made it very clear that he would do all in his power to allow Parliament to exercise its sovereignty.
This is likely to be the real battle line when Parliament reconvenes next month.
On this question power between the PM and Parliament is more evenly balanced. Yet while a majority of MPs oppose a no deal Brexit they struggle to agree on a united response.
Some want to reverse Brexit. Others like the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock want to return to Mrs May’s deal.
Many just want a General Election and a change of government. Mr Corbyn wants revolution, according to some of his own MPs.
John Bercow to support Parliamentary sovereignty in Brexit decision-making
So it is a mystery what would follow a vote in Parliament to postpone Brexit.
A significant number of Tory rebels do seem ready to support a postponement, and they include former cabinet members who carry significant authority given their past service in government. But this might not resolve very much.
It is difficult to see the Government continuing in office if it is forced by Parliament to remain in the EU beyond 31st October. In all likelihood Brenda in Bristol would have to endure another General Election!
Then a big test would land on the desks of all Tory candidates: whether or not to sign-up to a manifesto commitment to leave the EU without a deal if necessary. This is the sort of test that can break parties apart.
There is a saying in Welsh “He who would be a leader must be a bridge”.
The gulf between Tory rebels and the Government widens daily.
Perhaps there is still time for Boris to surprise us all and produce a deal that can bridge the gap. If not, the Conservative Party as we know it could be in the last days of its long life.
•David Melding, one of the Conservative party’s leading constitutional experts, is a member of the Welsh Assembly and served as its Deputy Presiding Officer.