It’s that time of the week again: crunch time for Theresa May. Tomorrow MPs will vote again on Dominic Grieve’s meaningful vote amendment along with the government’s ‘compromise’ meaningful vote amendment. The problem with that compromise is it’s already been rejected by several Remain Tory rebels – who say the Prime Minister personally misled them last week on the issue. The problem with their preferred amendment is that it has been rejected by the government on the grounds that it would tie their hands in the negotiations.
Only one side can come out of this the winner. Government figures are sounding increasingly confident that they have the numbers to defeat Grieve’s amendment. He hasn’t helped himself with his talk of collapsing the government, a step too far for all but the most hardcore Tory rebels, and DexEU is seen as having masterminded a ‘divide and rule’ approach which has peeled off some of the more pragmatic Remain rebels. However, given that this is what they were saying this time last week and the Chief Whip ended up having to make a last minute concession, it is likely to go down to the wire. Events in the Chamber on the day will likely be pivotal to how this one plays out as will how many Labour Eurosceptics are prepared to help May out.
So, what happens if the government loses the vote? Dominic Grieve has insisted that he isn’t trying to collapse the government per se while there’s been a lot of fighting talk from Brexiteers who are getting frustrated with May’s weak leadership. Would a loss tomorrow mean that the government falls? It seems unlikely. Make no mistake, if the government lose the vote there will be fury on the Conservative benches and a lot of that would be directed at the Prime Minister for failing to take her MPs with her. The Brexiteers – and the ERG – will see their vision for Brexit diminishing further away. May’s lack of Brexit vision is already being blamed for the growing divisions within the party.
Yet despite all this, would there be any point moving against May? The damage would already have been done – the government’s hands tied – and not even moving the most ardent of Brexiteers into No 10 would fix it. Unless of course, Conservative MPs thought that triggering an early election and winning more seats would mean they could start a new Parliament and have more luck with the Brexit legislation. Given how that turned out the last time and the fact there’s only nine months until the UK leaves, only a tiny number of MPs actually think such a plan is a goer. It follows that if May loses the vote, she may cling on anyway – it’s just that her party will be even more miserable than it is now.