A few weeks ago it was reported that a senior Remain supporting Cabinet Minister had told journalists to expect 40 ministerial resignations if the Government didn't allow them to support Yvette Cooper's amendment ruling out a 'no deal' Brexit. In the event, there wasn't a single resignation.

Fast forward a few weeks and we're now being told that there are likely to be a dozen resignations next week if ministers aren't allowed to follow their consciences. Indeed, things have now gone one stage further with The Sun reporting that some of those ministers expect to be able to defy their own government and still remain in office. Quite incredible.

Tobias Ellwood

Today, defence minister Tobias Ellwood openly said that he will defy government policy and vote for whatever amendment Yvette Cooper eventually decides to table. Business Minister Richard Harrington has said the same thing, and thrown in his disapproval of the Prime Minister's "inflexibility" and proposed extending Article 50 for good measure.

I do wonder if these gentlemen have any meaningful understanding of the concept of collective ministerial responsibility.

Cabinet collective responsibility, also known as collective ministerial responsibility, is a constitutional convention in Parliamentary systems that members of the cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them. This support includes voting for the government in the legislature. 

I suppose there is something to be admired in them being so transparent about their intentions. Most of their colleagues take to anonymous briefings instead. 

But if they feel so strongly then surely resignation is the only honourable thing to do. That's what David Davis did in July when he realised he could not support the policy the Cabinet had agreed at Chequers. That's what they should do now.

If they don't resign, then they should be sacked. It is impossible to maintain discipline in government if ministers feel they can say what they like and do what they like without consequence. It is a mark of the weakness of this administration that neither of them have been sacked before now, and in all honesty I do not expect them to be.

We are not far from this government not being able to function. Not being able to control your ministers is one of the first signs of a government in terminal decline. 

Theresa May

Let's now turn to the Cabinet itself. This Cabinet has many problems, but one in particular. When you ask a cabinet minister what Theresa May's strategy is, they shrug their shoulders. She confides in none of them. Not even the most senior ministers around the cabinet table.

Some of them even wonder if she herself knows what her strategy is. And yet they sit there around the cabinet table and do nothing. They don't fear her, yet none of them has the guts to put up their hand and do what needs to be done. 

Theresa May's strength is that her Cabinet is divided into four factions, each of more or less equal numbers and each of the factions knows that it is not strong enough to assert itself because at least one of the other three factions wouldn't stand for it.

Amber Rudd

First, there are the 'Remain Ultras', including Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark, Philip Hammond, Claire Perry and David Mundell.

The 'Leave Ultras' include Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, Andrea Leadsom, Geoffrey Cox and on a good day, Stephen Barclay, Michael Gove and Liam Fox.

The third group is the 'May Ultras', ministers who owe their careers to Theresa May like James Brokenshire, Karen Lumley, Julian Smith, Jeremy Wright and Brandon Lewis and who would die in a ditch for her.

Sajid Javid

And then there's the fourth group 'The Weathervanes', as Tony Benn might call them - these are ministers who continually sniff which way the wind is blowing, and depending on the wind direction will fall in behind whichever faction they think will best serve their longer term purposes. They tend to be Remainers who now support Brexit - Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Gavin Williamson, Matt Hancock and Liz Truss. 

David Lidington is, of course, temperamentally a 'Remain Ultra', but he is the one cabinet minister who regards his role as keeping the show on the road.

Theresa May Donald Tusk

In the end, what the Cabinet decides to do over the next four or five weeks - remember there are now only 40 days to go until 29 March - will determine what kind of Brexit we get or whether indeed we leave the EU at all on 29 March. They could also determine whether Theresa May is still prime minister on that day.

Even if she is, I think it's highly unlikely she will stay on for long afterwards, assuming we do leave on 29 March. It must surely then be time for her to announce she will be going in the summer or autumn, leaving a successor enough time to make a mark before a 2022 election.

Here's the 'but'.

In my opinion this government is close to breaking point. By any normal measures it is barely functioning in the conventional sense. Brexit is ruling everything, but little is being achieved because of the total lack of direction from the top. If things go wrong on February 27, the whole house of cards could come crashing down. You think I exaggerate? I hope you're right.

Chuka Umunna

The Labour Party is scarcely less split. Rumours abound that the balloon is going up on a new Centrist Party this week. It had been thought that Chuka Umunna was about to launch it at the end of last week, but it didn't happen. If it does, I'd expect not just some Labour MPs to row in behind it, but also a handful of Conservatives - not more than five, though. 


It would be a huge burst of publicity and probably score well in the opinion polls, but the ground hasn't been laid in the way that it was when the SDP launched in 1981. And of course, assuming it takes support away from Labour more than it does for the Tories you could make an argument that in a general election it would lead to a repeat of what happened in 1983 and 1987, when a split opposition led to two strong Tory victories. Psephologists and pollsters will earn a fortune.

Rumours also continue to swirl on the left that Jeremy Corbyn does not want to fight an election in 2022 and is planning to resign before then and hand over to someone else. He's been on the verge of it once or twice before but his close allies have dissuaded him from going ahead. The thinking goes that he knows he wouldn't enjoy being prime minister so if he resigned soon, he'd go out in a blaze of glory and forever be seen as a hero of the Left. 

John McDonnell LBC

The trouble with this scenario is that there is no obvious Corbynista succession plan. Diane Abbott and John McDonnell would be electorally toxic. Richard Burgon is just not up to it, and while Rebecca Long-Bailey is still seen as a long term prospect by the Corbyn wing of the party, she's not exactly covered herself in glory so far. Any leadership battle this year would surely be between Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner, Sir Keir Starmer and possibly Tom Watson, with the latter two being ruled out for the crime of each possessing a pair of bollocks.

I've rambled on long enough, and I apologise for the stream of conscience, but I truly think we are embarking on a momentous few weeks in politics. 

I'm going to try to write something every day, so do keep checking back, assuming you're the least bit interested in my take on these events.

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