The last forty eight hours have been equally captivating and frustrating for followers of British Politics. Captivating because those watching were constantly reminded that they were watching history being made. This was particularly true in the build up to the Meaningful Vote when the estimates for the margin of the defeat May would suffer were being projected. The frustration came in the gnawing feeling I had that, despite the drama, nothing would fundamentally change and we would have no decisive Brexit resolution.
The Meaningful Vote contributions from the Conservative's backbenches mainly contained watery calls to support the deal but, unsurprisingly, more confessions that it was impossible to get behind it given the backstop and other unpalatable elements. However, even after that, I still did not expect it to be such a large defeat and naively assumed many of Theresa May's own MPs would row back into line for the final vote.
On the Labour side , there were also a lot of contributions calling for a People's Vote . Yes, many did caveat this with "if we can't have a General Election" but most of these felt half hearted and tokenistic.
When the result was called, I genuinely leapt up with anticipation and thought "this is it, she's gone". For one moment, the sheer magnitude of the defeat seemed absolutely impossible to survive for this government.
However, Theresa May almost immediately quelled my excitement by confidently pre-empting the calls for a Confidence Vote and went even further by stating that the Tories would consider a motion from the smaller opposition parties if Labour chose not to pursue it. It was a smart move that cornered Corbyn though I am certain she already knew she had the support of the 10 DUP MPs at that stage.
So then we had the Confidence Motion debate. It was exactly as you'd expect. If we've learned one thing since the Brexit vote it's just how tribalistic British politics still is. This clearly has a lot to do with the first past the post electoral system but it's still incredible that the same party lines remain despite the political upheaval of the last two and a half years. Apart from a few former Labour Independents there was almost no dissent on either side (again some Labour MPs mentioned a People's Vote) and the debate slowly meandered to the finish line and the vote.
The result was in the ball park of what everyone was anticipating though it had the numerical perfection of highlighting just how reliant the Conservatives are on the DUP's 10 votes, without them Labour would have won by a single vote.
Theresa May did win tonight but overall the last 48 hours will probably prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for her. She has exhausted so much of her political capital and has massively limited her flexibilty in two ways. Firstly, and over a long period of time, by narrowing her options though "red lines" and stump speeches since the Brexit vote. More recently interventions against a No Deal from members of her now emboldened Cabinet shave further hemmed her in. This new found freedom comes as a result of the Conservatives having their own confidence vote in Theresa May in December.
She can now only offer her political opponents a Brexit deal that includes leaving the Single Market and Customs Union on March 29th. The parliamentary arithmetic and the sheer scale of her Meaningful Vote defeat now make it unlikely that of all these conditions will be met.
I personally think there isn't any chance of all of these things happening and getting through parliament. Unfortunately for May I equally believe her failure to achieve all three of these conditions could split her party and end her premiership.
I will soon write about what I think might happen next and focus on the other players in the tragedy that is Brexit but for today I think the Deputy Leader summed the last 48 hours up best when he said "most people...simply feel sorry" for the Prime Minister who has run out of ideas, carrots and stick by stubbornly putting her red lines on a pedestal above all else...