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How tonight’s no confidence vote could help Theresa May

16 January 2019

11:04 AM

16 January 2019

11:04 AM

Another day, another big vote in the Commons. But as with yesterday, there is a sense in Westminster that tonight’s vote is a foregone conclusion. Theresa May is expected to win it as the DUP are still backing her, as are the ERG and no Tory second referendum types have come out against her.

Now, it might seem odd that the Commons can inflict the biggest defeat on a government of the modern era, on the defining issue of the parliament on Tuesday and then affirm its confidence in that government on the Wednesday. But that is British politics right now.

If this no confidence vote goes as expected, it will help Theresa May. It will allow her to say that she still has the confidence of the Commons and so can carry on governing.

But it is worth remembering that May is in a constitutionally unique position. Thanks to the failed Tory no confidence vote in December, May can only be ousted by parliament not her party. The most obvious circumstance in which the Commons might choose to remove her would be if it looked like she was running down the clock to no deal. It is worth noting that she went out of her way last night to say that she wouldn’t do that.

Jeremy Corbyn might well have gone too soon with this confidence vote. No bit of the May coalition is ready to peel off, yet. The DUP will back her unless and until the backstop looks like becoming reality, the ERG are convinced that the clock is ticking down to no deal and so won’t move against her and Tory second referendum types would get nothing out of siding with Corbyn at the moment.

But, as Katy said last night, this almost certainly won’t be the last confidence vote that May faces. As she makes more Brexit choices, it will become harder for her to keep her current coalition together. The next few months are going to be some of the most uncertain and dramatic in modern British political history.

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