The ERG have strengthened May’s hand by calling for a vote of no confidence

Had the Economist’s “alternative awards” been next week they might have re-considered who they gave the Own-Goal Scorer of the Year gong to. DUP leader Arlene Foster walked away with the prize after she paved the way for a second referendum on Brexit and gave Jeremy Corbyn a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, two things she has passionately campaigned against. But tonight’s result proves the ERG have failed far more spectacularly.

The Prime Minister will keep the keys to 10 Downing Street for at least another year after Tory MPs voted 200 to 117 in favour of her to stay. It means her Brexit deal is back on the table and she has sufficient backing to see it through unless something drastic happens. Effectively, the outcome ERG was set up to prevent. Bravo!

“Not to worry”, Jacob Rees-Mogg will undoubtedly say tonight. Her leadership has been rocked and she is now a dead woman walking. There’s only so much more she can take and senior MPs will be like vultures around a carcass until the day she finally keels over and surrenders.

That may be true, and the result was undoubtedly closer than she would have wanted, but there is a strong argument that the Tory rebels may be doing her a favour.

As ITV’s political editor Robert Peston said today, having pulled the “meaningful vote” on her Brexit plan the damage to her authority was such that something had to give. And of the three options of what would go – a general election, formal abandonment of her plan, or an attempt to get rid of her – the one that is least likely to end her time as PM is probably what is happening, the no-confidence ballot.

What’s more, the vote effectively puts the ERG’s version of Brexit to bed. Before MPs cast their vote this evening May reinstated that her Brexit is “the only Brexit in town” and some 200 of her politicians have backed that vision and accepted it as the truth.

As Peston says, as a result “a Brexit plan that looked totally doomed could yet be revived – because even her Tory critics would be under intense pressure, from Tory members, to rally round her.

“This is Tory MPs’ one chance of new leadership and either a different Brexit or no Brexit at all. And there is little in their conduct over the past year to suggest they have the stomach or backbone for those risks.

“So as I say, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis, Boris Johnson, Steve Baker and Dominic Raab may in practice be doing her a good turn, against their dearest hopes and convictions”.

Nice work chaps.

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