It was a historic defeat – perhaps the heaviest ever suffered by a sitting government.
Everyone reading this should know the story: Theresa May lost the “meaningful vote” on her meaningless Brexit deal by a staggering 230 votes.
Enjoy it while you can, because it’s not the end of the matter.
Yes, Jeremy Corbyn has tabled a vote of “no confidence” (VONC). But there’s no guarantee that Parliament will support it. The DUP has said it will support Mrs May’s government, despite voting against her deal, and every single Conservative will want their government to stay in office.
Even if he loses, the Conservatives will have 14 days to come up with a viable alternative to Mrs May’s government – and, again, they might manage it.
But here’s the big question: Do they really want to?
Mrs May intends to have talks with members of her own party who rebelled, and with the DUP, hoping to tweak her deal in a way that will allow these Parliamentarians to support it. That’s a hopeless exercise because those who voted against her did so for wildly varying reasons, but she’ll put them through it anyway.
We know that 118 Conservatives voted her deal down because they think it is no good, and there’s no reason to believe that anything she does now can make it better.
So those MPs face the prospect of being part of a government that forces a deal onto the nation that actually harms it. Maybe they’re relaxed about that – but will they be as relaxed about what it could do to their prospects of re-election?
The only alternative, according to Mrs May, is “no deal”. A significant number of the 198 Conservatives who supported her in the “meaningful vote” did so in order to prevent a “no deal” Brexit. They think that could harm the nation. Will they really want to support Mrs May, knowing what that could do to their prospects of re-election?
Whatever version of Brexit Mrs May leads us into, the prospects for the UK are not good. That’s according to economic experts. All Conservative MPs are aware of this and they know that, if people suffer as a result of their decisions now, they will take the blame later.
And if the effect is so bad that they end up getting voted out of power, they may not get a chance to form a government again for a generation.
So if they support Mrs May in the VONC, and in any version of her Brexit deal that may come later, they will be trading short-term security for long-term obscurity. No politician wants that.
But there is an alternative: Support the vote of “no confidence” and allow Jeremy Corbyn to form a government.
Conservatives have spent months telling us Mr Corbyn doesn’t have a strategy for Brexit; this is their chance to prove this claim is true.
Whether it is or isn’t, Labour will be saddled with the task of delivering Brexit – by March 29; an impossible task, it seems.
Even if Mr Corbyn succeeds in getting the deadline extended, it cannot go back very far as there are elections to the European Parliament at the end of May.
It seems unlikely that Labour will manage to forge a new deal, that actually helps the people of the UK, before then. That’s what we’ve been told, right?
So if the Conservatives let Labour form a government, they can watch that party take the blame for a failed Brexit – and they’ll be hailed as the MPs who walked away because they didn’t want to inflict it on the nation.
Even if Labour works a miracle, the Tories who step back to let it happen will avoid censure and may well be rewarded by the public for their act of self-sacrifice.
So, for the Conservative Party, losing is a win-win situation.
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