Picture the scene: it’s late evening on Tuesday, March 12, and BBC News at 10 is reporting live from Parliament where MPs are voting on Theresa May’s make-or-break EU withdrawal deal.
Bong! Newsreader Huw Edwards reports that arch-Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson have just been spotted marching arm-in-arm into the Aye Lobby to vote with Mrs May.
Bong! Political editor Laura Kuenssberg reveals from Central Lobby that up to 20 Labour rebels have defied Labour whips to vote with the Tories.
Suddenly Mrs May, a dead woman walking for so long, looks like the great survivor. An impossible fantasy? Maybe — but I don’t think so
Bong! A setback for the Prime Minister! Now Kuenssberg is reporting that a phalanx of Conservative hardliners, led by mutinous Tory ex-cabinet minister Esther McVey, is holding out against Theresa May’s deal.
Kuenssberg believes the mutineers have the numbers to sink the Government.
Bong! But now comes news that the Democratic Unionist Party has just won a promise of a huge new development grant for Northern Ireland — and in a last-minute change of mind will now be voting with the Tories, too.
There follows several minutes of desperate tension as Parliamentary tellers for both sides line up to announce the final result. Britain’s future inside the European Union and Theresa May’s survival as Prime Minister is hanging in the balance . . .
The minutes tick by and then, finally, Speaker Bercow announces that the Government has won — by a single vote.
Uproar follows in the Commons. Chaos and confusion. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt lean across to shake Mrs May by the hand as she slumps back exhausted on her seat on the green benches and briefly closes her eyes.
A famous Commons victory for a woman who has been written off again and again. A woman who, just six weeks ago, suffered the humiliation of a record defeat of her deal by 230 votes.
Then, live on camera, a note is passed to the PM. Sterling has soared by five cents in the minute that has passed since the result was made known.
Suddenly Mrs May, a dead woman walking for so long, looks like the great survivor.
An impossible fantasy? Maybe — but I don’t think so.
Over the past two weeks, largely unnoticed, events have been moving quietly in the PM’s favour.
Yes, at first sight, last Monday’s Cabinet revolt looked like another disaster for her when Work And Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Justice Secretary David Gauke and Business Secretary Greg Clark, among others, laid down an ultimatum to Downing