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Thursday 16 May 2019

Twenty-four hours on, and May’s mad strategy, using the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to force her deal over the line at the fourth attempt is taking shape, although that’s not say it makes much sense, let alone has any chance of succeeding.

The talk now is of Downing Street vainly hoping Labour abstain on the back of a pummelling in the party’s heartlands in South Wales, the Midlands and the North at the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party – now on 100,000 followers.

Admittedly, this blog has wondered whether Jeremy Corbyn is minded to make a pact with May and get Brexit over with – whipping MPs to neither vote for or against in order to break the impasse is certainly one way of assisting without losing too much face. Corbyn will be inclined to cooperate on some level. The rise of the BP has threatened the two-party oligopoly, which he, for all his anti-establishment livery cherishes as much as anyone.

However, in keeping with the outlook of Theresa May’s forlorn administration, a mass Labour abstention is a truly desperate hope. Significant – inevitable we dare say – victories for the BP in both red and blue seats will embolden the 17.4m even further to demand a sovereign Brexit. They will be even less satisfied with the offensive substitute Mrs May has confected that her Labour counterpart will insist on watering down even further. It won’t end at Brexit either, the Tory-Labour axis will finally face a significant threat from Farage’s slick operation.

Besides, the parliamentary Labour party is much too contemptuous of the popular will to stand aside. “We are going to oppose this,” said shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry on ITV’s Peston last night.

The other aspect of the prime minister’s strategy is to abandon oft-mentioned indicative/definitive votes and instead stoke an amendment jamboree at the bill’s second reading.

According to the Spectator, May is likely to take an equivocal stance, thereby encouraging MPs to run riot and get the deal approved with all manner of ruinous add-ons: Customs Union, EEA, perhaps even a second referendum. However, this tactic is no different from Oliver Letwin’s two takeovers of Parliament in March and April when votes on the above, along with other mad options were held, none of them securing a majority.

The Spectator think the binding circumstances of a second reading could make the difference this time. That’s highly unlikely. The bill will be introduced to the Commons less than two weeks after the European elections. Too many MPs will be wary of drawing yet further ire from voters who will have just awarded the Brexit Party a thumping majority.

Many Tory MPs will be inclined to go the other way to try and convince the electorate the Conservative Party is well stocked with true patriots, even if the party itself is anti-Brexit. No surprise then of reports droves of Tory MPs who voted for the deal on the last occasion will switch back to their default position against. The PM will need “rather a lot more” than around 30 “switchers” a government source tells Politico – the margin to close is 58. Labour won’t be helping, the DUP certainly won’t.

May’s time is therefore almost up. Until Yesterday, Downing Street was still claiming the prime minister would stay on until the Autumn, and not just anonymous spokespersons. Michael Gove was in on the act as recently as Tuesday. But that’s all changed.

The hotly anticipated no-confidence vote against May on June 15 will come at the perfect time, arriving just after bruising local and European elections, a by-election in Peterborough which the Tories will not win, and a failed fourth attempt at the deal. Even Theresa May, too often lauded as a great survivor, will not put herself through the humiliation of an unwinnable no-confidence vote of the Conservative Party National Convention.

According to the Times’ sources, May will resign before then. About time.

Quote of the day: “Every day wasted from here makes life harder for whoever leads Britain into the future. We need to end this national humiliation.”

May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy on why she must go now.