This time yesterday I published THIS blogpost, saying it was time that Theresa May realised the game was up and that she should depart the stage. A few hours later she was on her way to Strasburg and by 11pm it looked highly likely she was about to pull off the impossible and squeak her vote through today.
This morning has swung things decisively in the other direction. The Attorney General's legal advice has led to the DUP deciding they can't vote in favour, and nor, it seems, will the majority of the ERG, following the statement from their group of lawyer MPs at midday.
There have been a scattering of Conservative MPs who have said they will now support the government, having voted against last time. However, given the government need to persuade 116 of them to change their minds, I cannot see how that is now possible. [UPDATE: The Spectator have a running list of converts. So far there are only 19 (at 17.35)]. So we have to assume the vote will again be lost. And lost by a good margin, by which I mean over 100. If there is a margin of only a couple of dozen you could make the argument that Theresa May could bring it back for a third and final go, but is that realistic?
We now need to look to the future. The immediate future is tomorrow's vote on a No Deal Brexit. This is when things could really fall apart and the government could disintegrate. If the Government whips MPs to vote in favour of No Deal - and remember, this is the law - will we see a number of Tory MPs resigning from the Government? Will they actually have the bollocks to do so? We were told there were 40 ministers in that position. So far I count fewer than a dozen who have threatened to do so. And I doubt they'd all deliver on the threat. But even so, if two or three Cabinet ministers and ten or so from the lower ranks went, that would be quite an event.
If the Government decides to cave and offer a free vote it would signal the whips have lost complete control. But we knew that anyway, I guess. And in that circumstance, does anyone have a clue as to how the Prime Minister will vote? Nope, me neither.
It is highly likely that Parliament will vote against No Deal. This is not binding, but it is hard to see how the Government could ignore it, meaning that a new Bill would have to be introduced to annul the leaving date of March 29th.
Assuming the House then votes to extend Article 50, the Prime Minister then has to request that with the EU. Clearly a two or three month extension is pointless if the deal has been voted down, so it would need to be much longer than that. I assume the EU will agree to that, but it is something that will go down in most of her own Party like a cup of cold sick, mixed with Marmite.
I said yesterday that Theresa May had run out of road. Today's events are likely to indicate that so has her government. Even Tory MPs are now openly talking about a general election. Charles Walker said this on the World at One today...
If it doesn't go through as sure as night follows day there will be a General Election within a matter of days or weeks. We cannot continue to behave like this as a Government. It is not fit for purpose. We are not doing what we need to do, which is govern the country properly. We are letting country down. If we have to have an election then that is what we have to do. It is not sustainable. She has to get a new mandate for the sake of the country. Needs must when the devil drives. We cannot go on trying to govern like this.
There are few Tory MPs who would welcome an election, but sometimes it's the only way to resolve anything. The trouble is that the Fixed Term Parliament Act dictates that 66% of MPs have to vote for an election to enable it to happen. That's 429. Do the math.
I know the cliche about being in uncharted waters is overused, but that's where we're heading. And with no Captain Cook at the tiller to give us any confidence we know in which direction we're sailing.
I can see few ways out of this mess for the Prime Minister. Depending on the margin of defeat tonight, it is entirely possible she may decide to resign tonight. Possible, but not probable.
It would be tragic way to end a premiership, but an honourable one.