Iain Dale: It’s going to be a White Christmas – because there are snowflakes, snowflakes everywhere.

Plus: Tory MPs, the world’s most duplicitous electorate. But a certain long-serving woman Labour MP is sending Christmas cards to them all…

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

I was surprised by the fact that 117 MPs voted against the Prime Minister on Wednesday – and can’t pretend otherwise. I had thought that the total would be between 80 and 100.

What fascinates me is that there were no ministerial resignations in the runup to the vote. No one will ever convince me that all 95 Government ministers and the various PPSs voted for Theresa May to stay on. I can think of at least two Cabinet members who I would lay money voted against her. Surely any minister who did that would be honour bound to resign?

Apparently not. No wonder the Parliamentary Conservative Party is known as the world’s most duplicitous electorate.

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I interviewed Jacob Rees-Mogg three quarters of an hour after Graham Brady had announced the result of the ballot. I was rather taken aback by his responses to my various questions. He wasn’t exactly bad-tempered, but he certainly came across as a bad loser. When I put that to him, he was having none of it – but continued to call on the Prime Minister to resign. It was quite extraordinary.

I have sympathy with many of his views on the subject of the Withdrawal Agreement, but there is no future in being an ‘irreconcilable’. Andrew Bridgen gave a similar response, and it is clear that loyalty is a word which has become alien to both of them. It is supposed to be the Tories’ secret weapon. You could have fooled me.

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Nicky Morgan hit the nail on the head when she said on Peston: “[May] has to realize there are some on our backbenches who are irreconcilable to either having any deal or having anything like the deal that’s on the table.” It’s difficult to see how the Prime Minister can convince the 71 MPs who declared that they would not support her in the meaningful vote that was planned this week to change their minds.  Particularly after her rebuff in Brussels, as reported this morning.

She could possibly convince some of them but it still wouldn’t get it over the line. So what are the alternatives? Norway Plus? A second referendum? It ought to be leaving with what I like to call a ‘clean break’ rather than ‘no deal’, but Parliament will do its level best to frustrate it, even though it passed the legislation which guarantees it.

Quite what happens next is anyone’s guess. Unfortunately, I can see Article 50 being postponed, but all that would achieve is to kick the can down the road again. But the Prime Minister has become a master of that particular art.

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It is the season of goodwill to all men. And women. And Conservative MPs. Harriet Harman has certainly contracted the Christmas spirit very early. She’s so full of goodwill to Conservatives that she’s sending them Christmas cards. All of them apparently. What can it mean?

Well, perhaps that this long-serving Labour MP wishes to curry favour with Conservative MPs should there be an election to succeed John Bercow as Speaker of the Commons.

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About a month ago, someone suggested to me that I should send out a weekly email newsletter to people who were interested in my various activities. Hmmm, I thought, would anyone be interested? I then signed up to Mailchimp and have now sent out a newsletter on a Sunday evening for the last three weeks. People seem to like it, so if you’d like to sign up just visit http://www.iaindale.com and sign up via the pop-up. You can unsubscribe at any time if I bore you to tears.

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A friend of mine is a comedian, originally from Russia. And there aren’t many of them to the pound. Konstantin Kisin is his name. Last week, he pulled out of doing a comedy gig at a university after being asked to sign a ‘behavioural contract’. This ‘contract forbade him from telling jokes which could be considered anti-religion, anti-atheist, homophobic, transphobic, bi-phobic, misogynistic … and so the list went on. This is apparently increasingly happening on university campuses, supposedly the bastions of free speech.

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On a similar but unrelated note, I was waiting for a train at Tonbridge station on Wednesday when I overheard a teacher talking to five girl pupils about their trip to the Commons. Their visit was to support Amnesty International’s human rights day. They were meeting John Bercow and various MPs together with their local MP, Tom Tugendhat.

I suggested to the teacher that while they were there she should take the girls across the road to College Green where they could see the huge media presence covering the possible fall of a Prime Minister. Her response astounded me: “Yes, I was thinking of doing that, but I don’t want to cause them any stress.” Jesus wept. Is that what we’ve really come to – where the first thought of a teacher when considering doing anything is will it cause stress? No wonder we’re rearing a generation of politically correct snowflakes.

WATCH: Rees-Mogg – “Of the four politicians here, I am the only one who wants to stick with what was voted for.”

At the beginning of Channel 4’s Brexit debate, Rees-Mogg says that people voted for Brexit and it should be delivered.

Drained of authority? Yes. Rudderless? Certainly. Humiliated? Absolutely. But May’s very weakness is becoming a strange strength.

She looks increasingly like the captive of pro-Remain cross-party MPs working together against the pro-Leave referendum mandate.

  • Good news for Julian Smith.  The essence of the Grieve amendment is that it opens up a path to No Brexit.  Very well, the Chief Whip may be tempted to think.  If pro-Leave MPs believe they have a choice between a Grieve-led No Brexit and Theresa May’s flawed deal, they will vote for the latter next Tuesday.  Conspiracy theorists yesterday evening were suggesting that this reasoning explains why loyalists such as Damian Green and Oliver Letwin voted against the Government and for the amendment.
  • But hang on. There’s bad news for Smith.  Steve Baker and the ERG leadership are having none of it.  Let Grieve table and pass as many motions as he likes, they were arguing yesterday: the Government cannot be mandated by motions.  The Prime Minister can and should tell the Remainers to bog off if necessary.  All she and her government need to do is to hang on until March 29, and Brexit will be duly delivered.  So the ERG and other Brexiteers will vote against the Government next week. Smith’s cunning plan won’t work.
  • And there is worse news for him, too.  Perhaps the Grieve amendment will have an effect at the margins on some Leavers.  But Remainers now have an incentive to vote against May next week: to prod the Commons towards No Brexit.  And the ERG and other Leavers have an incentive, too: to keep the pressure up on May for No Deal, if necessary.  So Smith’s clever plan is in danger not only of not working; it threatens to boomerang back to smack the Whips Office in the jaw.
  • But wait. Yes, there’s good news for the Chief Whip after all.  Even if they band together to vote down May’s deal next Tuesday, the aims of the Remainers and Leavers will be different.  In a nutshell, the drift of the Prime Minister’s Brexit policy, over two and a half years, has been from a Nick Timothy-crafted position with clear red lines…through Chequers and the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson…to the breaking of those lines over Northern Ireland, transition and the backstop.  The policy is softer than it was.
  • So it is now clearly in the interests of the Remainers to keep May in place.  The lesson that Grieve and company will draw from yesterday is: keep pushing.  Working with Labour and other opposition parties, they can use the pro-Remain sympathies of the Commons to their advantage.  A change of leader would probably mean a new Brexiteer Prime Minister, such as Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab or even David Davis, armed with a mandate to defy No Brexit and deliver No Deal. Why would they want that?
  • And it is not clear that Leavers on the Conservative benches have the numbers to depose her.  Jacob Rees-Mogg and Baker couldn’t find them last month.  It might be that, in the wake of a defeat for May next week, Brexiteers decide that enough is enough, and that elusive total of 48 letters is reached then – or even before.  None the less, it isn’t evident that they have enough support to topple May in a confidence ballot (though Mark Harper’s defection from the loyalist ranks may be a sign that her days are numbered).
  • The swing voters are, as ever, the J.Alfred Prufrocks of the backbenches.  According to our count, 181 Conservative MPs voted Remain in 2016, and 129 voted Leave.  Obviously, the Commons has changed a bit since then.  But the average Tory MP is a soft Remainer or moderate Leaver – perhaps with an eye to the Norway option being pushed by some of Grieve’s supporters yesterday.  (Indeed, his amendment can be seen as a pincer movement on the Prime Minister by a makeshift alliance of Remainers and Norwegians.)
  • What stirs more fear in those backbenchers – No Deal or No Brexit? Do they dread most the undoubted difficulties of No Deal, leading to a collapse of confidence in the Government, the loss of their seats, and a Corbyn-led Government – perhaps sooner rather than later?  Or do they fear No Brexit more – and the revenge of a turbulent electorate, cheated of the prize it voted for, which sends the Conservatives the way of the old Christian Democrats in Italy?  There is no away of knowing.
  • At any rate, May’s very weakness is now a strange strength.  Voted guilty of contempt of Parliament; beaten three times yesterday (the first time a government has been so for some 40 years); staring down the barrel of defeat next week, she now leads the weakest government in modern times.  But this very vulnerability is becoming a strange source of strength – or survival, at any rate.  She hangs on because her party can’t agree on a replacement.  Because while it doesn’t like her plan, it can’t settle on an alternative.
  • Could the Cabinet oust her next week?  Perhaps.  But, as recent events have shown, a Prime Minister can impose a plan on a Cabinet that it doesn’t much care for.  She controls its meetings, proceedings and minutes.  Each of her Ministers has their own ambitions and agendas: they do not find it easy to act in concert.  She has ridden out the resignations of two Brexit Secretaries, a Foreign Secretary and a Work and Pensions Ministers.  And called the bluff of the pizza gang of five Cabinet Leavers.
  • Might she resign if beaten next week?  Maybe.  But if she quits as Party leader, she will open the door to a Brexiteer as her replacement.  And it is not clear whether she could simply resign as Prime Minister.  That would put the Queen in a difficult position.  Would the latter then send for, say, David Lidington, or for Jeremy Corbyn and, in either case, on what basis?  Any such move would be resisted by the Palace.  In any event, Prime Ministers tend not to resign.  The last to go willingly was Harold Wilson, and he was ill.
  • So can May go on…and on…and on? Almost certainly not.  Leavers are losing patience with her.  Remainers are using her.  Any dash from cover risks her swift removal – whatever tactical alliances may form to prop her up temporarily.  A tilt to Norway, No Brexit or No Deal risks stirring up those parts of the Parliamentary Party opposed to all three.  The only glimmer of good news comes from her Party’s right – and the departure of Nigel Farage from a UKIP lurching wildly to the fringes (though she has lost the DUP).
  • Finally, ponder the shape of events.  Voters were narrowly for Leave in 2016.  The Commons is still for Remain: perhaps a sixth of it is for Brexit by conviction rather than calculation.  And the long and short of it is that the more time passes – and the deeper the Government’s crisis becomes – the less MPs pay even lip-service to the biggest event in our electoral history.  The tide in Parliament is for Remain.  It moves slowly – even glacially.  But it is carrying the Prime Minister with it.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Ministers are voted guilty of contempt for the first time in Parliament’s history

The Attorney General’s claim that it would not be in the national interest to reveal his legal advice was defeated in the Commons.

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Which is to be master – the Commons or the Government? That is the form the question took today, and since it goes to the heart of whether there is any point having a Parliament at all, the Speaker ruled it must take precedence over the debate on the European Union Withdrawal Agreement.

Sir Keir Starmer opened from the Labour front bench. His manner is about as unlike Humpty Dumpty as it is possible to imagine. From a  physical point of view, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, is more like Humpty Dumpty.

The night before, Cox had brushed aside with majestic self-certainty the demand by the Commons that the Government publish the legal advice he  hadprovided to the Cabinet on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Now Cox, who reached the Chamber a few minutes late, had to sit in silence on the Treasury Bench and hear why the Government has got this wrong.

Sir Keir spoke slowly, setting out to build with impassive deliberation a case which would vanquish by virtue of its impregnable logic.

He was heard with respectful silence as he said: “The Government is wilfully refusing to comply with an order of this House, and that is contempt.”

He agreed with “the Member for North-East Somerset” – Jacob Rees-Mogg – that the Attorney General’s claim to be acting in the national interest was “not good enough”.

And he wondered “why on earth”, if the Attorney General feels so so strongly about the matter, he had not voted against the motion in the first place.

The answer to that question is that the Conservatives, fearing they might be defeated on the Opposition motion when it come up on 13th November, decided instead to abstain, as they have got in the habit of doing on inconvenient Opposition motions.

The Attorney General had the night before indicated that he had nothing to do with that decision: “It appears he was not asked,” as Sir Keir observed.

Andrea Leadsom, proposing for the Government that the whole subject be referred to the Committee on Privileges, could not match her opponent’s lawyerly gravitas, and referred to the Commons as “the mother of all parliaments”, when as any schoolchild should know, England is the mother of parliaments.

Sir William Cash (Con, Stone) gave a closely reasoned speech calling for “full disclosure” of the Attorney’s advice. He contended that the public interest in having that advice far exceeded any  public interest in keeping it confidential. He wished, for example, to know if the Attorney had advised that there is danger of the Withdrawal Agreement being declared “invalid under the Vienna Convention”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said “the national interest is better served by serving the interests of Parliament than the convenience of the law officers”, and warned that when in power, the Conservatives should “defend the rights of Parliament for the occasion when we will not be”.

The Leadsom amendment was defeated by 311 votes to 307, and the motion put up by Sir Keir and his allies passed by 311 to 293.

Johnson. Distrusted by Conservative MPs. Clung to by Party members. He extends his lead in our Next Tory Leader survey.

It may be that the former Foreign Secretary has become a kind of comfort blanket in bewilderingly unpredictable times.

We wrote last month that progress in our Next Tory Leader table is invariably linked to media coverage.  This month’s result suggests that it ain’t necessarily so, at least in these unprecedented times at Westminster.

Dominic Raab is a Brexiteer; so are most Party members; his resignation was courageous; it was well-reported; he is plainly very able.  But his total is up by only four points.

Boris Johnson has had what, for him, counts as a quiet month.  Theresa May is clocking up over an appearance a week in the Commons at present – not counting PMQs.  Johnson has got to his feet to question her in two of her past four performances, fewer times than some of his fellow Brexiteering MPs, and has otherwise been largely restricted to his Daily Telegraph column, to which the paper has been devoting declining space.  But his rating is up by five points.

What is going on?  As ever, your reading may be as good as ours, but we tentatively advance the following line of thought.

First, David Davis remains in double figures, drifting down from 13 per cent to ten per cent.  He is taking a slice of the pro-Brexit vote, which blurs an already inchoate picture.  Second, resignations are coming so fast that they are perhaps of declining value – at least as far as this survey question is concerned.  Third, other answers show a clear anti-deal pattern, and Johnson is a familiar, known, anti-deal quality among Party members – a kind of comfort blanket, perhaps.

Finally, a paradox may be at work.

Never before in what has become an increasingly besieged premiership, turbulent even by the standard of some recent Prime Ministers, has Theresa May’s leadership been so fragile.  But it may be, in the aftermath of the failure of the push to depose her by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, that our respondents now somehow assume that her position is stronger than the facts suggest that it is – and that she will simply go “on and on and on”, regardless of the toppling buildings and collapsing masonry around her.

As we say, that’s just one reading of this result: that the main Brexit drama is so compelling that the Conservative leadership sub-plot is a sideshow by comparison.  (And, for all Johnson’s improved rating, he has only a quarter of the total.)

Sajid Javid is down from 19 per cent to 12 per cent.  His boat is being rocked by the anti-deal feelings of Party members.  Other than Johnson, Raab, Davis and Javid himself, no-one else reaches double figures.

The Moggcast. Beware “ridiculously inflated” rebellion predictions – the deal vote “will be a close result”.

Rees-Mogg discusses Carney’s “improper” rule at the Bank of England. Plus: his surprise at becoming the subject of a book.

You can also listen and subscribe to the Moggcast on iTunes, through our YouTube channel, or through the RSS feed here.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Cox delivers a majestic counterblast to all those who think the Brexit deal is a sell-out

The Attorney-General gave an electrifying performance as he refused to publish the advice he has given to ministers.

Brexit is having an electrifying effect on Parliament. The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, was by turns trenchant, melodramatic, defiant, humorous, self-important, self-deprecating, penetrating, rueful and unyielding as he upheld the Government’s deal.

His rich, deep, sonorous, well-modulated voice makes him sound like one of the great actor managers of Edwardian times, appealing to his listeners’ emotions and love of spectacle as well as to their understanding. Here is a performer who projects what he wants to say as if he were still in the pre-microphone age, which in many of the courts where he appeared as an advocate was perhaps the case.

Like a stag at bay, the Attorney refused to comply with a Commons motion requiring him to release the legal advice he has given the Government on its Brexit deal, insisting over and over again that to so would not be in “the national interest”, words to which he imparted a tremulous note of pathos. Only a man deficient in any sense of honour, he implied, would so betray his country as to publish advice which could hinder our negotiators.

But Cox sought to temper his defiance, and render it acceptable to MPs, by answering “with uncompromising and rigorous fidelity” their questions, and by promising to be as straight with them as he is with ministers. He said that in the end, the question of whether or not to accept the deal is not one of “lawfulness” but of “prudence”.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, from the Labour front bench, accused him of showing “contempt” for Parliament. The Attorney replied that all Thomas-Symonds has to do, on any legal question about Brexit, is “to ask and he will receive”. Here the cadence was biblical.

Cox agreed there is no unilateral right to terminate the Northern Ireland backstop, admitted he would have preferred to see such a right included in the deal, but contended that the European Union would have no motive to remain in the backstop “indefinitely”, and would, indeed, find it even more irksome than the United Kingdom did, and “highly vulnerable to legal challenge”, so would be even keener to bring it to an end.

In other words, the backstop “represents a sensible compromise”. How fervently David Lidington, Theresa May’s right-hand man in Downing Street, nodded as he said those words.

Nigel Dodds, for the Democratic Unionists, refused to be persuaded by Cox’s “deeply unattractive, unsatisfactory presentation”. Cox replied that he had himself “wrestled with the question because I am a Unionist”, but had decided the backstop was “as much an instrument of pain” to the EU as to the UK.

Harriet Harman, from the Labour backbenches, told him the Government could not “openly defy the will of the House”. Cox replied: “I am caught in an acute clash of constitutional principle.” So he did not pretend the arguments were all on his side, but said that as Attorney General he could not act “regardless of the harm to the public interest”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was not for the Government to judge whether or not to release papers which the Commons had demanded. Cox wondered where this doctrine ended. Did it extend to the papers of the Secret Service?

Turning to the Opposition benches, the Attorney said they could bay and shout, but it was time for them to grow up and get real, for the public interest was at stake.

When they shouted at him that he was being “arrogant”, he replied that on the contrary, he wished he could comply with the request of the House, but he simply couldn’t. By this stage one almost felt one was listening to Martin Luther saying “I can do no other”.

He added that “on all points of law I have given…my starkest judgment about what the situation truly is”, and repeated that in his opinion, the backstop will not last indefinitely. For all his histrionics, Cox sounded deeply sincere, in a manner politicians very seldom achieve when they are defending prudence, moderation and compromise.

I apologise for being so slow to file this report. It is hard to tear oneself away from listening to Cox, and hard also to give any proper idea of his forcefulness. I have never heard a more majestic counterblast to all those who think the Government’s proposed deal is a sellout.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: May’s thin red lines grow thinner, yet she refuses to surrender

And her enemies are divided: can the No Dealers and the People’s Voters combine to defeat her?

“Hard pounding this, gentlemen,” one of Theresa May’s predecessors once said. “Let us see who can pound longest.”

That was the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, and the same grim spectacle is now unfolding in parliamentary form, as befits a great constitutional struggle with an uncertain outcome.

What a bombardment the Prime Minister endured, and as Jacob Rees-Mogg observed, this is the third time in ten days she has done so.

No wonder the combatants look grimmer and more strained than they did at the outset of the battle. It has developed into a war of attrition, in which the Prime Minister is said by expert judges to lack the numbers to prevail, yet in which she refuses to admit defeat.

May’s thin red lines grow thinner, indeed have faded, many of her adversaries would say, into shades of pink so faint they have become indistinguishable from the white flag of surrender which they confidently expect to see raised.

Yet May will not surrender. She continues to proclaim that hers is the only strategy which will work: “I can say to the House with absolute certainty that there is not a better deal available.”

Jeremy Corbyn observed, with some justice, that “the silence from most of the rest of the Cabinet is telling”. It is far from clear that her colleagues are standing shoulder to shoulder with her.

And what a weight of former Cabinet ministers opposed her from her own benches, Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Boris Johnson, John Redwood, Michael Fallon and Owen Paterson among them.

But although these are heavy guns to face, none of them seemed, at least to this observer, to score a direct hit. When the debris fell back to earth and the smoke cleared, there she still was, still insisting on her compromise, even though, as Fallon objected, it is a “huge gamble” which guarantees no one what they want.

“In the Prime Minister’s lexicon,” Angela Eagle (Lab, Wallasey) asked, “is smooth and orderly the new strong and stable?”

That shot landed, for as the nation saw during the general election, May is useless at responding to attacks on her addiction to pitifully banal forms of words.

But this is not a general election, and in the present campaign she has the strength of her weakness, which is that her banalities may start to drive her critics to distraction. Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the European Reform Group, warned that the Spanish are after Gibraltar and the French are after our fish, and asserted that May’s deal “will never get through, and even if it did, which it won’t…”

In other words, neither he nor anyone else knows for certain whether she will get her proposed deal through the Commons. It looks bad for her at the moment, and her own supporters this afternoon seemed glummer than they did.

But the great and minor guns which opened up against her were far from united. Can the No Dealers make common cause with the People’s Voters (who incidentally are starting to become insufferably tedious in their own special way) so as to defeat the Prime Minister, or when it comes to it on 11th December, will they be too frightened of playing into each other’s hands?

“Two more weeks of this,” one of my colleagues in the Commons press gallery groaned. Hard pounding, and we shall see who can pound longest.

Lucy Woodcock: By backing a ‘People’s Vote’, May could save the Conservatives

It’s time to set aside the false choice between the Prime Minister’s deal and ‘No Deal’. Young voters are demanding a chance to have their say.

Lucy Woodcock is 26 years old, and originally from Derby. She was President of Bath University Students’ Union in 2016/2017. She is a supporter of For our Future’s Sake and the Conservatives.

In the last general election, I – like far more young people than many would have you believe – voted Conservative. Taking everything into consideration, I genuinely believed that as a party of free minds, free people and free markets, they were the best to deliver on the EU referendum result.

It goes without saying that when Theresa May arrived at Number 10, she was essentially taking a large sip from the poisoned chalice left for her by David Cameron, and had to fasten her seatbelt extra tight for what would undoubtedly be a roller-coaster ride ahead.

With the referendum result so close, she faced a divided country and an incredibly challenging situation. Amidst two years of political chaos, she has worked tirelessly to deliver on the referendum and negotiate Britain’s way out of the EU.

It can’t have been easy, but she has stuck with it. She has been continually let down, as many faltered have around her. The merry men of Brexit, such as Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Dominic Raab have gone, stabbing her in the back and left her wondering who she can really trust. Now this takes some resilience. She has rightly gained the sympathy of the British public for this.

I genuinely believe that this Brexit Deal – which by all accounts makes us poorer, less powerful and prosperous – is the best that May could get. Yet despite all her diligent efforts, the EU Withdrawal Agreement that’s been presented to us is a million miles away from the promises made in 2016, and too many red lines have been crossed.

If the Prime Minister really thinks that following through with this proposed deal is in the best interests of our country, I say it’s time to take off the rose-tinted glasses and stare down the barrel at the reality of what we’re being faced with.

Nobody voted for a deal that would make people poorer, curtail our rights, and limit opportunities. Nobody voted for a deal that would see our public services worse off and further damage the NHS. Nobody voted for a deal that would see us paying a £50 million divorce bill and get nothing in return. Simply put, the deal is disastrous, and we’re not buying it.

And as much as the Conservative Party would like to think otherwise, it’s not just staunch Remainers that think this way. Those on the fence and many who originally supported Leave, have now concluded that this deal is simply not acceptable and that the people deserve a final say.

For months, we’ve been presented with the false binary option that it’s either May’s deal or no deal; a quite frankly feeble attempt to scaremonger and back people into supporting a shoddy deal. But we know that this isn’t the case. There is absolutely another option on the table and that is a People’s Vote.

At a time of national crisis, the Conservative Party has a lot to answer for. There’s been an utter lack of unity; instead we’ve witnessed MPs going rogue, briefing against each other, trying to stage a coup, and selfishly putting their own interests first. The salient image for me was Jacob Rees-Mogg holding his impromptu, self-serving, al-fresco press conference, as if he was the almighty saviour we’ve all been looking for.

Young people like me will never forgive a Conservative Party that sells our futures down the river. And when young people say something, trust me, we mean it. Just look what happened to the Liberal Democrats when they lied to us with tuition fees.

I therefore plead with the Prime Minister. If anything is clear from the madness of the last few days, it’s that there is no majority for her deal in Parliament. It will fall. At that point, a catastrophic No Deal becomes a very scary reality.

Despite this, May is determined to just get on with it. But getting on with it simply isn’t good enough. What happened to the hopes and dreams of a better future for the United Kingdom? As Jo Johnson MP rightly said last week – “how did our aspirations for ourselves as a country fall so far, and so fast?”.

There are thousands – if not millions – of young people like me, who hold the keys to key marginal seats and Downing Street for the Conservative Party. At a time when the Labour Party look like a less than appealing prospect, and most other parties irrelevant, there is a significant opportunity for May.

But only if she stands by the courage of her convictions.

And this is more than high-minded idealism. The reality is that a People’s Vote might be the only thing which keeps the Conservative Party together.

Right now the Conservative Party look like self-serving politicians, climbing over each other to be next in line for the throne. May can rise above that. She can be the Prime Minister who finally gives the British people a clear choice on the biggest political issue of our lifetime.

And if she does that, she may just be the Prime Minister that saves the Conservative Party as well.

Lord Ashcroft: My Brexit poll. It’s good for May…but bad for her deal

By a 20-point margin, voters as a whole said MPs should “vote to reject the agreement even if it is not clear what the outcome would then be”.

After perhaps her most difficult fortnight as Prime Minister, which is saying something, the news from my latest poll, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, is surprisingly mixed for Theresa May. Though she would probably say this is a side issue and that she is focused on other things, her personal standing among voters is actually consolidated. She now leads Jeremy Corbyn by 15 points in the best Prime Minister stakes, and while “not sure” still leads the field over both leaders, the proportion naming her has risen while Corbyn’s numbers have fallen, most dramatically among his own voters. Less than half of 2017 Labour voters now say he would be the better Prime Minister of the two.

We see much less change when we ask if people would prefer a Conservative government led by May, or a Labour government with Corbyn as Prime Minister. Here, there has been almost no change since I last asked the question at the beginning of the year, with just over half preferring the incumbent – itself a telling commentary on public reaction to the recent turmoil.

In fact, the political class as a whole has not covered itself in glory as far as the public is concerned. We asked whether people’s views of various politicians had become more positive or negative over the last few weeks, and in every case the latter outweighed the former. Even outspoken Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and David Davis had as many Conservative Leave voters saying they had a lower opinion as a higher one. For May, the results were again mixed: nearly half of Conservative Remain voters said their opinion of her had risen, while just over a third of Conservative Leavers said it had fallen.

As far as the public were concerned, none of the supposed contenders to be Prime Minister would do a better job than the person who currently holds it. The group who thought another candidate would make a better Prime Minister than Theresa May was 2017 Labour voters, 58 per cent of whom (yes, just over half of Labour voters) thought Corbyn would do so. Though a third of Conservative Leavers thought Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson would do a better job, slightly more of them thought that they would not. Conservative Leavers were most likely to warm to the idea of David Cameron taking over – an idea suggested by the irrepressible Steve Hilton – but even they were more likely to prefer the idea of May staying on.

Another piece of mixed news for the Conservatives is that perceptions of both parties are largely unchanged since I last asked about them in September. This is good news in the sense that tumultuous times have not pushed the party’s ratings a great deal lower; on the other hand, there wasn’t a great deal further for them to fall. While just under half think the party is willing to take tough decisions for the long term, only 22 per cent think the Tories are competent and capable, compared to 20 per cent for Labour. Only six in a hundred voters think the Conservative Party is united.

Just under half (45 per cent) of voters claimed to know either “a great deal” or “a bit” about the draft Brexit deal agreed between the Government and the EU. Just over half admitted they did not, including a quarter who said they knew “little or nothing” about the agreement.

Overall, just under one in five said that, from what they had read or heard, they thought the Brexit deal honoured the referendum result, including just 13 per cent of Leave voters. Only one group – Conservative Remainers – was more likely to say the deal honoured the result (35 per cent) than that it did not (27 per cent). Nearly four in ten said they didn’t know.

Voters as a whole were slightly more likely than not to say they thought the agreement was better than leaving the EU with no deal. Conservatives as a whole were evenly divided on this question, though Tory Remainers thought it was better than no deal by a 36-point margin, while Tory Leavers thought the opposite by 15 points. Labour voters overall were more likely to think the agreement better than no deal, but four in ten said they didn’t know.

However, voters were twice as likely to think the deal sounded worse than remaining in the EU on our current terms (42 per cent) as to think it sounded better (21 per cent). While Remain voters thought it sounded worse by a 43-point margin, Leavers were precisely divided – indeed Conservative Leave voters were the only group to think the deal would be preferable to remaining on our current terms (40 per cent) than worse (33 per cent).

Even so, voters were pessimistic about the prospects of negotiating a new agreement. Only just over one in ten thought the EU would be willing to agree new terms if Theresa May were to seek them, and only 15 per cent thought they would do so if they were approached by a new Prime Minister.

That being the case, what should MPs do if asked to vote for a Brexit deal they were unhappy with? By a 20-point margin, voters as a whole said MPs should “vote to reject the agreement even if it is not clear what the outcome would then be,” rather than “vote to accept the Brexit agreement as an imperfect compromise and move onto other issues.”

Labour voters, Remainers as a whole and Conservative Leavers all favoured rejecting the agreement even in the face of unknown consequences; Conservative Remainers, notably, were the only group more inclined to accept an imperfect deal and move on.

By 65 per cent to 24 per cent, Conservative Remainers thought that a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister would be worse for Britain than leaving the EU with no deal. By the lower margin of 54 per cent to 33 per cent, Conservative Leavers thought a Corbyn-led Labour government would be worse than accepting a Brexit deal that did not mean the UK taking back full control of its money, borders and laws.

Labour Leave voters, meanwhile, said it was more important to them for the UK to take back full control than it was to get a Labour government with Corbyn as Prime Minister.

Voters rejected the idea of a second referendum to choose between the draft withdrawal agreement and leaving the EU with no deal by 19 points – though one in five said they didn’t know. However, there was only a nine-point margin against a referendum to choose between the draft deal and remaining in the EU.

There was less appetite for a general election. Only just over one in five – including fewer than four in ten Labour voters – said there should be a new election before the terms of Brexit are finalised. Only just over one in three said a general election should take place if Theresa May were replaced as PM before the Brexit deal was signed and sealed.

Further details of the research, including full data tables, are available at LordAshcroftPolls.com.