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The revolution has not yet taken place. It had not, at least, occurred by the time I left the committee corridor.

The ways of Tory MPs can be mysterious even to themselves, but it seemed they did not feel this evening was the right time to defenestrate Theresa May.

Apart from anything else, she was not present. She sent Liam Fox to address the 1922 Committee, and he delivered a talk on trade.

This seems to have been enough, almost certainly more than enough, to calm the febrile atmosphere. Fox had taken the precaution of bringing with him two whole boxes of a pamphlet entitled UK Trade in Numbers, for distribution to the assembled MPs.

“He’ll report some progress on the Faroe Islands,” an MP said with a grim smile.

One by one the 100 or so MPs who had entered Committee Room 14 drifted out again, unable to take any more trade figures.

They wore stunned expressions, as if they had been hit over the head with a whole box of the pamphlets, and this at a time when they were struggling to come to terms with the far greater blow of finding that their leader is now, apparently, hand in glove with Jeremy Corbyn.

One MP, a devout Leaver, expressed the shock he feels at the Prime Minister’s overture to Corbyn: “It’s like one of those dolls where you pull the string, but someone else has programmed it with what to say.”

Another MP, a devout Remainer, sounded no happier: “I desperately wish we could all retrace our steps. But quite how far back we’d have to go…”

His voice trailed off. He cannot tell at what point things went irretrievably wrong.

Meanwhile in the Chamber a vote had been tied, 310 to 310, for the first time since the Maastricht Treaty was going through the House in 1993. The Speaker had quite properly cast his vote with the Noes, but the sense of disorientation, of living through strange times when the House has extreme difficulty making up its mind, was intensified by this rare event.

“I do know him,” a passing MP said. “He was at Oxford with Andy.”

Perhaps we had stumbled into a performance of some neglected piece drawn from the theatre of the absurd.

The committee corridor is very long, high and dry, and one began to long for an interval when one could pop out for a drink, or at least a cup of tea.

From inside the committee room came short, quiet bursts of drumming on the desks, quite unlike the explosions of noise to be heard this time last week when the Prime Minister spoke.

Far from enraging the assembled MPs, her non-attendance seemed to have quietened them down, not least by ensuring that many fewer of them bothered to turn up.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East), no friend to the Prime Minister, emerged and told the waiting press: “The indication is that it’s open season – put your letters [of no confidence in the PM] in and Graham Brady [Chairman of the ’22] will go and see the PM when it’s 50 per cent plus one.”

He predicted that in a secret vote, two thirds of Tory MPs would vote in favour of sacking the PM.

But Simon Hoare (North Dorset) was among those who derided such talk: “It was raised as an idea and dismissed as an option.”

Hoare and others reported that Brady had declared he would stick to the rules, which stipulate that there cannot be another vote of confidence in the Prime Minister until December, a year after the last one.

Nor will Brady offer a running commentary on the number of letters he has received. “Duddridge has over-egged it,” one of the reporters said.

And yet on that desultory evening there was a feeling of dramatic tension, of emotion which will soon need to be purged by action. Things cannot go on like this. The revolution, one felt, has only been postponed.

52 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Tory MPs decide this is not the right evening to defenestrate the PM

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