15 Jan 2019

Crushing defeat for May: Where next?

That defeat for the government was of a scale few had contemplated. Some blamed the PM’s words to MPs last night. Some said the crowd mentality seIzed people and they joined the herd.

Several former Cabinet Ministers told me that the PM would blow the party apart if she reached over to Labour senior backbenchers. Their minimum demand is thought to be full membership of the Customs Union.

Theresa May isn’t a natural candidate for cross-party outreach. Some Labour MPs said it was massively unconvincing. She sounded a bit like Penelope Keith in The Good Life laying out newspaper on the carpets for the tradesmen.

But Tories on the left of the party said the PM now had no choice. “She’ll have a few resignations but who cares,” said one minister who has served under her but no longer does.

The main victors, supporters of a no deal Brexit, weren’t looking that chuffed after her statement. Their numbers have been swelled by middle of the road Brexiteers who have become more sanguine about no deal than they were a few months ago. But Mrs May doesn’t share their relaxed demeanour.

It is hard to imagine some conversations aren’t happening right now in Brexit circles to game whether there is any way the threat of mass resignations might just displace her to replace her with a happy no dealer. The chats might go nowhere but the scale of the defeat and the talk of reaching out to Labour senior parliamentarians is bound to have triggered it. What a difference it would’ve made if the ERG had held back the vote of no confidence in Theresa May as party leader until now.

The Labour pro-Second referendum gang say they plan to start pounding the Labour leadership with heavy artillery the moment the vote of no confidence tomorrow is won by the PM. Jeremy Corbyn will be putting on his hard hat to resist that.

The hurricane has made land, but no one knows how much it will uproot and transform the landscape.

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