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Shadow Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox: Metaphorically, he put his own head on the block.

Never mind anything else you’ve heard about the government’s legal advice on its Brexit deal; this is the real reason the Tories are facing contempt of Parliament proceedings:

You know it’s true.

And the things that voice said when he appeared in the Commons to justify refusing to provide the full legal advice present a summary of the legal advice to MPs were preposterous too.

Nobody was convinced by his performance (apart from, perhaps, Kenneth Clarke. Perhaps he had been smoking one fat cigar too many, or listening to one jazz piece too loud, before entering the Commons chamber). Here’s the issue:

The problem for the Tory government was that, when the Humble Address motion was made on November 13, there was no way it could have won a vote, and losing would have been taken as a sign that Parliament had lost confidence in the Conservatives’ ability to rule. The choice to accept the motion was the lesser of the evils on offer.

But then the government tried to back out of the commitment it had accepted – to provide, in full, the legal advice that supported Theresa May’s Brexit deal. This simple act indicates that there is something to hide, no matter what Mr Cox may say:

It is the suggestion that the Tories are hiding the facts that has led Commons Speaker John Bercow to schedule a debate on contempt of Parliament proceedings, to happen today – December 4 – before the start of a five-day debate on the Brexit deal.

He did this after representatives of every Opposition party in the Commons, including the DUP, wrote to him demanding that the government be held in contempt:

Some have suggested that the DUP may have an ulterior motive for taking part in this:

But it is possible for that party to profit either way, as a future government – of any colour – may still have to rely on DUP votes to get its Brexit plans passed.

The result? As stated: A debate on a motion to find ministers in contempt of Parliament due to their failure to comply with the Humble Address passed on November 13.

No penalty is spelt out in the motion because it is intended to act as a final warning – but Labour spokespeople have said that if it is passed and the government still fails to comply with the Humble Address then the party would seek further sanctions.

These may include the suspension of Mr Cox.

But it is also likely that David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto lieutenant, may also be held in contempt and suspended from the Commons.

And how have the Tories responded?

They’ve responded with abject panic, at first flooding the Commons chamber late into Monday evening to filibuster a debate on Scotland’s foreign policy footprint, in order to give their party’s whips time to submit their own amendment to the contempt motion.

But that amendment turned out to be a limp attempt to kick the matter down the road – referring it to the Commons privileges committee. This is unlikely to win the support of Opposition MPs and the DUP, all of whom have scented metaphorical blood.

One MP who appears to have made up his mind already is Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Read his words, watch the video clip of Shadow Solicitor-General Nick Thomas-Symonds, and ask yourself whether you think you deserve better from the government – considering the enormity of what’s at stake here.

I certainly do.