POLITICS
03/09/2019 20:38 BST | Updated 04/09/2019 15:14 BST

Will Tonight's Brexit Vote Mean The End Of Tory Moderates?

Swathes of Conservatives face the end of their political careers on Tuesday. It looks like a roll-call of the "fallen" moderates.

Sign up now to get The Waugh Zone by email every weekday evening. 

Civil war, what is it good for?

As both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn pointed out today, it’s exactly 80 years since the outbreak of the Second World War. 

As he stares down the barrel of his first bloody Commons defeat, the PM is set to immediately withdraw the whip and move to deselect the clutch of anti-no-deal Tory MPs who defy him.

He had hoped to get an agreement that the rebels would back down under the threat of a snap election. 

But it now looks as if later tonight he may have to paraphrase Neville Chamberlain from all those years ago: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this party is at war with itself”.

There’s of course a bitter irony that Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames will be one of the rebels. He said tonight “with a heavy heart” he would vote against Johnson because he felt his Brexit alternative was simply never going to fly.

A No.10 spokesman made clear however that the punishment for rebellion would be severe, because this would be effectively treated as a confidence vote. Curiously, he also suggested that if the PM lost the vote he would not resign (the usual thing in a confidence vote).

In his worst performance at the despatch box since taking office, the PM sparked derisive laughter when he claimed that his government still stands ‘for the rule of law’.

The bigger problem was that both he and an extraordinarily defiant Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg failed to offer anything concrete to win over the rebels. In fact, after Rees-Mogg’s dismissive stint at the despatch box the rebel numbers could be bigger than many expected.

That October snap election threat looks like it will be pushed hard tomorrow when the government motion is voted on. And if it takes place, there will be many names missing from the candidates list.

Most of the public will focus naturally on what this all means for their livelihoods rather than on the internal conflict in the Tory party. Yet the long-term damage to the fabric of the Tory party done today could have aftershocks for years to come.

In just one day, a swath of Conservatives with decades of service (Alistair BurtKeith SimpsonJustine Greening), have decided they will not stand at the next election. Other rebels like Philip Hammond will try to tough out the deselection threat. Some may stand as independents in a snap election, others like Philip Lee may defect to the Lib Dems.

Ken ClarkeDavid GaukeDominic GrieveSoames and others who face the end of their political careers tonight read like a roll-call of the ‘fallen’ Tory moderates and a final burying of the party’s One Nation roots. 

Guto Bebb said last week that the resignation of Sir George Young (who had served under Thatcher, Major, Cameron and May), like that of Ruth Davidson’s as Scottish party leader, “sends a terrible message to the country”. “Our party is becoming increasingly ideologically obsessed, narrowly focused on a nationalist agenda,” he added.

Hammond vowed this morning that he was “going to defend the party against incomers, entryists, who are trying to turn it from a broad church to a narrow faction”. That feels too late. Dominic Cummings, whom Hammond says is not even a member of the party, popped up ominously at this afternoon’s Lobby briefing and it’s clear he’s going nowhere.

Earlier, Johnson had privately warned rebel MPs that failing to deliver Brexit was an ‘extinction event’ that would affect both Labour and the Tories. But tonight may well see the final extinction of the endangered species once known as Conservative moderates.

Quote Of The Day

“There would certainly be the fight of a lifetime if they tried to”

Philip Hammond on any attempt by the Tory party to bar him from standing as its candidate in Runnymede in the next election.

Tuesday Cheat Sheet 

Boris Johnson lost his majority as former Tory minister Philip Lee ‘crossed the floor’ and defected to the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s leader in the Lords Angela Smith tabled a business motion that will make sure that all stages of the Benn extension bill will have to be completed by 5pm Friday. This would remove the threat of the Brexiteer peers ‘talking out’ the legislation.

Boris Johnson appears to have approved the suspension of parliament as early as August 15, two weeks before his cabinet were informed, according to evidence in the Court of Session in Scotland.

Jared O’Mara, former Labour and now independent MP for Sheffield Hallam, has decided to postpone his resignation in order to take part in this week’s Commons crunch votes. His decision gives anti-government forces a crucial extra vote.

The first phase of the HS2 rail project between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, with costs spiralling by £26bn to a whopping £88bn, transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed in a written statement to MPs.

What I’m Reading

This fascinating piece by academic Robert Craig suggests the real obstacle for the Benn bill could the issue of ‘Queen’s Consent’ | LSE

Anand Menon explains once more just why a no-deal Brexit is much more than a few ‘bumps in the road’. | The Guardian

Robert Kaplan on why Trump’s Asia policy is opening a Pandora’s box that China will exploit. | Foreign Policy

Got A Tip?

Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to waugh.zone@huffpost.com. 

Subscribe To Commons People

Each week, the HuffPost UK Politics team unpack the biggest stories from Westminster and beyond. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe.

***

Sign up now to get The Waugh Zone by email every weekday evening.