So now we know. With the clock ticking rapidly towards 29 March, Theresa May’s Brexit has been defeated – and in devastating style. This was the worst government defeat in British history.
The contradictions and dissembling the prime minister engaged in over the past two years have at last caught up with her. The final vote matched even the most doom-laden predictions.
Defeat – even by a single vote, never mind 230 – was always going to be catastrophic. This was May’s flagship policy, on the issue that has dominated her agenda since her first day in office, back in July 2016. And she has failed to get support for it – from opposition MPs, her coalition partners, the DUP and, most crucially and embarrassingly, from a huge chunk of her own party.
It could all have been so different. On her first day in office she said she stood for national unity. Yet within days May was uttering those ludicrous soundbites, “Brexit means Brexit” and “red, white and blue Brexit” as she sought to appease the hard right of her party. She talked tough, losing potential allies in Brussels, and set out those fateful red lines that ended the option of a customs union or single market.
And then, to cap it all,she called an election – when 20 points ahead in the polls – and, after a disastrous campaign, lost her majority and her ability to make her own deals.