EVERYTHING I thought I knew about Westminster has gone out of the window this week.
My head is scrambled, just like our politics. Anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is either lying or deluded.
In normal times, if a prime minister lost a critical Commons vote by 149 votes, the government would collapse.
This week, Theresa May notched up the fourth worst loss ever when her Brexit plan was defeated (she’s already got the gold prize for the biggest defeat) and she’s still in her job.
In normal times, if a motion was so crushingly defeated, it would never see the light of day again.
This week, after trying and failing twice to get it through, the government is gearing up to hold a third ‘meaningful vote’ on its Brexit plan on Monday or Tuesday.
In normal times, a cabinet minister ignoring a three-line whip would be sacked.
This week, four members of the cabinet abstained in a vote ordering the government to rule out a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances. They are still in their jobs. It’s worth reflecting on what that means.
The Conservative whips ordered MPs to vote against the motion that opposed leaving the EU without a deal (effectively they were told to keep no-deal on the table).
But 11 ministers abstained, including the four cabinet ministers — Amber Rudd, David Gauke, David Mundell and Greg Clark — along with Claire Perry, who attends cabinet. They ignored the order.
And yet… nothing has happened.
The prime minister does not have the authority to instruct her cabinet how to vote.
If there is no collective responsibility, there is no government.
Election fever? Taking the temperature in Ipswich
THIS week on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, we’re heading to Ipswich — the constituency that most accurately reflects the average distribution for the vote to leave in England and Wales. In other words, it’s the perfect focus group to take the temperature of the country.
It’s also a critical swing constituency which the Conservatives lost to Labour in 2017 — and the next election could be rather sooner than anticipated. Any recommendations for lunch or a cup of tea? Let me know @sophyridgesky
Live and immersive, see the real state of oceans
IF you’re interested in brilliantly bonkers ideas, how about broadcasting live from under the sea? Sky News is creating the first ever live TV news bulletin underwater in the Indian Ocean, so viewers can see the real impact of plastic pollution and climate change. It’s part of the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, and we’ll explore parts of the ocean never previously visited. You can watch at 8am on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — the troubling state of our oceans will certainly put Brexit into perspective.
Good golly, Olly’s pub talk is eerily accurate
LAST night MPs voted in favour of extending Article 50 and delaying Brexit.
Right on cue, European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted to say that the EU should be ‘open to a long extension’ if more time is needed for the UK to rethink its approach.
I couldn’t help casting my mind back to some indis- creet comments made by Olly Robbins, the chief civil servant advising the PM on Brexit. He was overheard in a Brussels bar suggesting the final vote would come shortly before the March 29 Brexit cliff-edge and MPs would be given a last-minute choice to either back Theresa May’s deal or see a lengthy delay to Brexit.