Boris Johnson’s team wants to set up a binary choice between backing him on Brexit and a Jeremy Corbyn government. First, they are trying this on their own MPs—hence the decision to treat this week’s vote on an extension as if it was a confidence matter.
But if this doesn’t work, and at the moment it looks like there are enough rebels for anti no-deal MPs to seize control of the order paper, then—I suspect—they will go to the country with the same message. They are determined not to allow MPs to make a puppet of Boris Johnson. They know that if the Prime Minister requested an extension, even if he had been forced into it, it would destroy their electoral strategy. Why? Because Nigel Farage and the Brexit party would use it to claim that Boris Johnson wasn’t really serious about Brexit. This would lead to a fracturing of the Leave vote that would make it impossible for the Tories to win a majority.
In the past, there has been talk of an election not taking place until after October 31. But if MPs have seized control of the order paper, they have the ability to legislate for a much shorter election campaign—one that would result in a government being in place before October 31.