The working assumption in Westminster at the moment is that Theresa May will lose Tuesday’s meaningful vote on her Brexit deal, and then the Labour Party will table a motion of no confidence in the government. The Tory whips certainly seem as concerned about that no confidence vote as they are about the Brexit vote, given they are resigned to losing one but have a good chance of winning the other.
But I’m not sure that this is the case any more. The public language from the Opposition has changed in recent days to suggest that there will not be a separate vote after all – or at least not one tabled by the Labour Party.
In his response to Theresa May in Tuesday’s debate on the deal, Jeremy Corbyn dropped the following hint:
‘This House will make its decision next Tuesday. I hope and expect this House will reject that deal. At that point, the Government have lost the confidence of the House. They should reflect on that.’
The reason, of course, that Labour would veer away from tabling a separate no confidence motion is that the party would lose it. But to admit this in public and to acknowledge that it isn’t actually going to table a no confidence motion would be to undermine Corbyn’s central message which is that there needs to be a general election as soon as possible. It would not be surprising, therefore, if Labour continued to build up the prospect of the government losing Tuesday’s vote as a confidence issue in and of itself.
However, the problem is that Labour isn’t the only party that could table a no confidence motion. The SNP has long tried to argue it is the ‘real Opposition’ in Westminster, and it is highly unlikely that Ian Blackford would pass up the opportunity to make life uncomfortable not just for the Conservatives but also the Labour Party. So the chances are that there will still be a no confidence motion next week – but it may not come in quite the way everyone expects.