One of the factors that led to the triggering of a no confidence vote and that will play a huge part in the result of that vote is the way in which Number 10 has shredded its credibility in the past few days. It isn’t just the way in which Theresa May’s press operation pushed back against rumours over the weekend that the meaningful vote on Brexit would be delayed, or the way in which ministers such as Michael Gove were still claiming that there wouldn’t be a delay just hours before the announcement to the contrary. It’s also that last night Downing Street was trying to dampen speculation that the 48 letters calling for the vote had been received.
This was happening at the same time as the whips were making frantic calls to MPs to work out how they would vote, which hardly contributes to the impression that Downing Street knows its backside from its elbow or that it thinks honesty is a good policy. Even MPs who are not implacably opposed to Theresa May have long entertained suspicions of both those descriptions being true.
Though May’s allies are this morning being bullish about her chances of winning the vote, it’s worth remembering that many Tory MPs have previously said that they just don’t know how they would vote today. Some are still furious at the way the Prime Minister called and then handled the 2017 snap election, and the handling of Brexit and this vote won’t have diminished that fury. But loyal Cabinet ministers have been making clear that even if May wins by one vote, a win is a win. This shows, if nothing else, quite how narrow those doing the counting fear the result could be.