Theresa May’s government survived a no confidence motion on Wednesday night by the votes of 325 MPs to 306.
The Tories are terrified of a general election and, for now, they have very narrowly avoided being called to account.
But this will do nothing to solve the crisis of establishment politics, or to offer a way out of their impasse over Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who tabled the no confidence motion, said the PM's “zombie” administration had lost the right to govern, and they "should do the right thing and resign".
Closing the debate for the government, Michael Gove simply attacked the left in wild terms. He said Corbyn wants to leave Nato and get rid of nuclear weapons
He said Corbyn has refused to join a “war against fascism” in Syria and had connived with antisemitism.
The ranting speech was a clear pitch for the Tory leadership.
The 117 Tory MPs who voted no confidence in May in an internal Tory vote in December, and the similar number who crushed her Brexit deal on Tuesday night, all lined up to keep her in office and avoid a general election.
The bigots of the DUP lined up to save the Tories—the government would have lost if they had voted the other way.
Disgracefully others who refused to bring down May included former Labour MP John Woodcock, who said Corbyn was not fit for office.
Now the immediate focus returns to Brexit.
A day after May broke all records for parliamentary humiliation by losing her Brexit deal by 230 votes, she has not changed any of her views about the way forward.
She isn’t changing any of her “red lines” and continues to repeat the same formulas that have proved so spectacularly unsuccessful so far.
After surviving the confidence vote she said she would offer talks with all the parliamentary leaders—an offer which Corbyn should have refused immediately. He said his condition would be taking a no deal Brexit off the table.
May refused any such guarantee, and therefore the talks with Labour seemed to be off.
Away from parliament, bosses are preparing to step up the pressure. According to the Financial Times newspaper, “Senior figures in the City of London have rounded on the ‘absurd’ and ‘bitterly frustrating’ failure of MPs to support the prime minister’s Brexit deal, with many financiers now pushing for the EU withdrawal process to be frozen.”
The Tories are considering trying to push back the date for leaving the EU (presently 29 March) by extending the Article 50 notification.
But no sooner was the possibility raised than the Tories had divided over the question.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, suggested in a conference call with business leaders on Tuesday night that the government would be open to an extension in order to find a new Brexit plan.
But Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, on Wednesday morning ruled out such a delay. “We’re clear we won’t be delaying Article 50, we won’t be revoking it,” Leadsom told the BBC.
After May survived the no confidence vote, the Labour right wing and some trade union leaders will step up their demands for Labour to push for a second referendum.
However, Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said earlier on Wednesday that it is not “automatic” that Labour would take this route.
According to the Times newspaper, Labour is considering giving its MPs a free vote on what should happen next over Brexit.
That’s an abdication of taking a clear line against a second referendum and in favour of the interests of working class people’s interests.
The central problem remains. The Labour Party is not mobilising its membership to act over the crisis. Left Labour group Momentum is simply asking its members to email their MPs or sign petitions. The trade unions are spectating.
This is a massive political crisis but working class people are not being organised to shape the outcome.
MPs have had their say on the government. Everyone else should have that chance through a general election.
But that means much more revolt, a serious attempt to put tens or hundreds of thousands on the streets against the Tories’ policy on Brexit but also their vicious regime of austerity and racism.
The establishment is tottering. Action outside parliament is needed to finish the Tories off