Brexit has left the three main parties that stand in England in an existential mess, split not just over the fundamental question of Leave vs Remain, but also over how to approach the deal that Theresa May has brought back from Europe. One of the odder splits tore open today, with Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd announcing he was resigning the Liberal Democrat whip so that he could back the government next week.
In a statement confirming his resignation, Lloyd said:
"I have come to the conclusion that I cannot honestly uphold the commitment I made to Eastbourne and Willingdon two and a half years ago, and reiterated since - to accept the result of the referendum, vote for the deal the Prime Minister brought back from the EU and not back calls for a second referendum - whilst supporting the Lib Dem parliamentary party’s formal position of voting against Theresa May’s deal and advocating a ‘People’s Vote’.
"Consequently, I have decided that the only honourable thing for me to do is resign the Party Whip in Parliament."
This has baffled Lib Dems, not so much because Lloyd is stepping back from the most avowedly anti-Brexit party in the Commons. It’s more that he’s doing so to support a vote that no one thinks the government has any chance of winning.
It is true that the Tory whips have been negotiating with Labour and Lib Dem MPs to try to drive down the overall size of the revolt against the deal. While in some cases this will be far more fruitful than trying to persuade members of their own party, it won’t help May’s authority very much at all: the size of the Tory revolt will be the most compelling number next Tuesday, not how many Opposition MPs backed her.