Last night I thought about writing an article about the most likely Conservative MPs to defect. Then I read a piece mentioning the three I was going to name, so then I thought, sod it, going to bed is a more attractive option.
Then, hey presto, the three I was going to name only went and did it. No one should really have been surprised. None of them had a long term history with the party - Anna Soubry had been a Blair supporter and joined the Tories in 2002 [UPDATE: A reader points out Anna had been in the FCS at Birmingham University], Sarah Wollaston only joined a year before she won her selection and Heidi Allen joined in 2012 having been moved to get involved in politics by the London riots the previous summer. So none of them had the kind of tribal loyalty to the party that others who have lived and breathed Tory politics since their teenage years. I don't say that in a critical way because all parties have to renew themselves and attract new people. No one wants a party stuffed full of political geeks.
Some of their MP colleagues doubt whether Wollaston and Allen have ever really been Conservatives. Neither of them could be classed as team players either. Both of them belong to the new school of politics where emotion and emoting often take precedence over ideological purity. The truth is you do need to believe in the basics of Conservative thought and economics if you want to be a Conservative MP. Up until recently there were no political tests in order to be an approved Conservative candidate. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe the Conservative Party should be approving automaton robotic candidates, but you do need to surely be able to articulate the Conservative vision.
Will there be others that follow the 'Three Amigos'? I suspect there will, but not many. We all know who the prime candidates might be, but there will be a few others who have kept their heads below the parapet. I think the success of The Independent Group may well depend on how many more Labour MPs can be attracted over. I'm not sure they will have been impressed by Anna Soubry's robust defence of Osborne style Austerity economics today...
Many Conservative MPs won't be losing too much sleep over the departures of Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen. They were never popular with many of their colleagues because of their inability to play in a team. Anna Soubry is different. She was personally popular among MPs on all wings of the party mainly because of her very well developed sense of humour and ability to swear like a trooper.
Social media reaction among Conservatives on social media has been damning of the three MPs, as you might expect. Conservative MPs would be well advised to keep their counsel and adopt a 'more in sorrow than in anger' approach. Fulminating isn't going to help the situation.
Successful political parties are broad churches. The Conservative Party ought to be able to embrace both Anna Soubry and Jacob Rees-Mogg, in the same way that the Labour Party always managed to find room for both Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn. Both main parties have now become cesspools of intolerance. In theory, the Liberal Democrats ought to be able to capitalise on this, but these are not normal times. And this is where The Independent Group may be able to capitalise.
In terms of parliamentary arithmetic little has changed, in the sense that the numbers on Brexit are the same as they always were. The only way things have changed is if there were a vote of confidence in the government. If the 'Three Amigos' vote against the government, the arithmetic becomes very tight indeed.
The Independent Group now has 11 MPs and with one more defection they will overtake the Liberal Democrats as the fourth largest group in the House of Commons. I doubt if they will ever get the number they need (36) to overtake the SNP, but at the moment you can't rule anything out.
What is certain is that before we leave the EU in just 37 days' time the parliamentary sands may have shifted a little bit more.