Connect with us

Featured

Enormity of PM’s failure laid bare

Published

on

This was worse than even the government feared.

A defeat of 230 votes. It is the most severe defeat for a sitting prime minister since universal suffrage.

In normal times, a prime minister losing a vote of such importance would surely resign.

The last time a sitting PM was defeated on a scale such as this was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. That brought down his government.

:: LIVE: PM’s Brexit deal defeated as Corbyn tables no confidence motion








0:15

Video:
Brexit vote inside and outside Commons

Theresa May’s indefatigability, however, remains apparently undimmed. She gave no sense that she intends to go anywhere. Within the chamber, her own benches, having just destroyed the only objective of her premiership, nonetheless rallied around her. A paltry consolation prize.

Nor did she give any indication that she would bring the deal back, as some had predicted. Given the massive scale of the defeat, that now seems remote.

Instead, she essentially invited the Opposition to table a motion of no confidence against her own government. Mr Corbyn duly obliged.

:: How your MP voted on Theresa May’s Brexit deal








1:38

Video:
‘The House has spoken and government will listen’

That is what will happen next – on Wednesday. The fact that the PM invited it confirms, however, that she is confident she will win it. The DUP will not desert her yet. The danger for Labour is that Mrs May will use a confidence vote to reestablish the authority of her government and her premiership.

In doing so she will have restored the status quo ante, except with even less certainty given that the one group with a definite Brexit plan (the government) will be denuded of it. And there will be even less time remaining.

This government’s authority, already enfeebled, is now completely shattered. Neither it, nor anyone else, has a clear plan on how to proceed.

The one thing with Brexit on which you can rely, however, is that the can, wherever possible, is kicked down the road. The only way of doing that now, of deferring difficult decisions for longer, is to extend the Article 50 process. There would probably be a majority for that, if the Commons can make it happen. My guess is that it will.

:: New record for biggest defeat ever suffered by a government








2:13

Video:
‘I table motion of no confidence’

In a peculiar twist, both groups of protesters outside parliament, for Remain and Leave, cheered loudly on hearing May’s deal had failed. That represents the enormity of her failure.

That she thought she could split the difference on an issue of political theology was folly. Perhaps she should always have chosen a side. But their cheers also represent the grave risk of two groups, with opposite objectives who both think they’ve won.

In opposing the PM’s deal, both Remainers and Leavers have rejected a settlement which would at least have given them something – be it a softer Brexit, or a guaranteed Brexit of some sort. They’ve both gambled in rejecting it. They’ve bet the house. Only one side can be right. And one faction might, in the end, have cause to regret the turn of the events of this historic night.

We have just over 70 days until Brexit day. There is no majority for anything. No plan B from the government. An opposition strong enough to wound but not to kill. A morass of different backbench groups all with their own competing versions of what should and what will happen next.

The truth is that none of the great institutions of British politics has the faintest idea.

Advertisement Find your dream job

Trending