It is a sign of the very strange times we live in that the government could lose a vote by a whopping 230 votes and still no one was surprised when the prime minister did not resign. Or that the no confidence vote to be held in its wake is expected to be won by the government. Further, that this wasn’t just any old vote on something sort of random, like when Brown’s government lost the vote on the Gurkhas in 2009, but the prime minister’s signature piece of legislation, the one she has spent her entire two and half year premiership building up to.
Yes, Theresa May is in trouble. She has to figure out some way to avoid no deal Brexit in a matter of weeks. Having said that, the solutions are there to be had if she’ll only realise that her red lines are dead in the water. Theresa May has some unpleasant but practical ways out of her dilemma, and further she is in no immediate danger of being deposed having already won a no confidence vote.
It is Jeremy Corbyn who is in real trouble now. Once the government survives the no confidence vote in it this evening, Corbyn will come under unbelievable pressure to back another EU referendum from within the Labour Party. He is loathe to do so, for reasons I’ve described before but will lay out again here. If there is another EU referendum, Corbyn will be outflanked by Starmer, McDonnell and Thornberry at the very least as the Left unites around Remain in a once in a generation way. Yes, Corbyn may be a cult figure, with the hardcore of his support, like Trump’s core support, willing to forgive pretty much anything. But even Corbyn could be in massive trouble from something like this. He will look out of touch with his own movement and with their big moment. It would be a disaster for him and to his credit, he knows it.
Yet he is in trouble anyhow, as we have this morning already seen core flunkies like Burgon floating the idea to the media that Labour could just keep asking for no confidence votes in the government until one works as opposed to taking a firm position on the second referendum. This move isn’t that much better than caving into a second referendum as it will allow cannier members of the shadow cabinet to show themselves as the true Remainers being held back by Jeremy “Brexitface” Corbyn over the coming days. People are complaining on the Left that May hasn’t invited Corbyn to cross party talks on what to do on Brexit – but this is a smart move by the prime minister. She is better off speaking to more sensible members of the Labour Party, those who actually care about the country and want to avoid a crisis if possible, and by doing so isolate Corbyn as much as possible.
For a long time I’ve had to suffer people in Westminster saying things like “Corbyn has played it so perfectly on Brexit”. What he was actually doing the whole time was playing himself into the corner he is now stuck in, all options available to him bleak.