Theresa May has survived the vote, but her authority is weakened still further. More than a third of Tory MPs have voted against her and this is after she pledged not to fight the next election and to get legally enforceable changes to the backstop.
If May had kept the number of those voting against her below 100, it would have been a good result for her. If she had kept it to below 80, it would have strengthened her position considerably. But anything over 105 was always going to be tricky for her as that meant a 1/3rd of her MPs didn’t have confidence in her. This became truer as the day went on and May offered concessions to try and win over wavering MPs. Now, to be sure, this result isn’t so bad that the Cabinet are going to go to her and demand that she quit or anything like that. But it does mean that I would be surprised if she was still Tory leader a year and a day from now. She has, with her commitment not to fight the next election, effectively fired the starting gun for the next Tory leadership contest.
The result also reduces May’s standing with the Cabinet. One senior Cabinet Minister has been saying in the last 24 hours that ‘no deal’ planning must now become the principal focus of government. May is now in a weaker position to refuse demands such as this.
May, in the words of one Cabinet Minister, ‘needs a win from Europe’ if she is going to have any chance of reviving her withdrawal agreement. But there is precious little evidence that the EU is preparing to give her changes of sufficient size to change the political dynamics in parliament.