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Here is the current state of parties in the Commons:

– – –

Conservative: 315

Labour: 257

Scottish National Party: 35

Liberal Democrat: 12

Democratic Unionist Party: 10

Independent: 8

Sinn Féin: 7

Plaid Cymru: 4

Green Party: 1

Speaker: 1

Total: 650

– – –

Subtract Sinn Fein and the Speaker, and one has the following:

Conservative: 315

Labour: 257

Scottish National Party: 35

Liberal Democrat: 12

Democratic Unionist Party: 10

Independent: 8

Plaid Cymru: 4

Green Party: 1

Total: 642

– – –

And here is the Sun on Sunday‘s estimate from last weekend of “actual numbers that vote”.

Conservative: 312

Labour: 253

Scottish National Party: 35

Liberal Democrat: 12

Democratic Unionist Party: 10

Independent: 8

Plaid Cymru: 4

Green Party: 1

Total: 635

– – –

So Theresa May needs the support of 318 MPs to win a meaningful vote on her proposed Brexit deal.  The paper gave two estimates of how such a vote might go, reportedly as calculated by Government whips.

For, left-hand column. Against, right-hand column.

Conservative:                            262            50

Labour:                                          –            253

Scottish National Party:                 –            35

Liberal Democrat:                          –             12

Democratic Unionist Party:       10                –

Independent:                                 3                5

Plaid Cymru:                                 –                  4

Green Party:                                 –                  1

Total:                                          275            360

Government loses by 85

The basis on which those whips put the DUP in the Government’s column and divide the independents as they do is unknown.

– – –

Here is a second calculation published by the paper.

For, left-hand column. Against, right-hand column.

Conservative:                            263             50

Labour:                                        35           218

Scottish National Party:               –               –

Liberal Democrat:                         –             12

Democratic Unionist Party:         –             10

Independent:                                 5               3

Plaid Cymru:                                  –                4

Green Party:                                 –                 1

Total:                                         302            298

Government wins by 4.

Again, the basis on which whips allocate 35 Labour votes to the Government’s column, calculate the SNP as abstaining and divide the independents up as they do is unknown.

– – –

Now let’s try a calculation of our own:

For, left-hand column. Against, right-hand column.

Conservative:                            281             31

Labour:                                        10           243

Scottish National Party:               –               –

Liberal Democrat:                         1               –

Democratic Unionist Party:          –            10

Independent:                                 2              6

Plaid Cymru:                                  –              –

Green Party:                                 –                –

Total:                                         293           290

Government wins by 4

– – –

We have imagined in the scenario above that the Government wrings the three changes out of the EU floated yesterday by our columnist, Henry Newman of Open Europe.

  • A “lock” for the Northern Ireland executive and assembly without which there can be no new regulatory barriers between the province and Great Britain.
  • An explicit bar on the levying of tariffs on goods moving from the UK to Northern Ireland or the EU.
  • A fudge on the backstop.

And have gone on to imagine that the DUP still vote against the Government, but that the whips are able to squeeze the backbench Brexiteer-plus Remainer rebellion to 31, and that the smaller minority parties abstain.

All this is in the scenario of a second meaningful vote, against a background of a market and business ramp in the wake of the Commons rejecting a first meaningful vote, and Labour swinging further towards a second referendum.

For ease of calculation, we have assumed no absentions.  This surely won’t happen in real life.  Some MPs will look for a third way rather than dividing for and against.

Now there are many objections to our scenario.  On the one hand, the Brexiteer total of about 29 in our 31 looks low, as does the Remainer total of three.  It is not immediately apparent why the Liberal Democrats and the SNP would abstain if Labour voted against.

On the other, the DUP may yet be lured into absention, even if imagining it voting with the Government is a leap too far at present.  And in the event of a crisis in the markets, more Labour MPs might move into the Government’s column, especially the anti-Corbyn ones.

Of course, there may be no second vote at all.  By the time it is due, Graham Brady may finally have received 48 letters, and Theresa May could have had to resign the Conservative leadership, with goodness knows what following.

The point we are making is that although the numbers look very grim for the Government, a meaningful vote is still the best part of a month away, and it is impossible to be sure what will happen, especially in the event of any second vote.

So Lyndon Johnson’s rule applies: that the first rule of politics is that its ‘practitioners need to be able to count’.  We apologise if we have failed this test ourselves.  The possibilities are none the less mutable.

Keith N writes below that one Liberal Democrat MP, Stephen Lloyd, has indicated a vote for the deal, so we have adjusted the final table.

231 comments for: “…need to be able to count”

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