As soon as I'd finished writing my blogpost last night, I thought I'd made a bit of a hostage to fortune by saying "the one thing we're sure of is that Boris Johnson will lose his majority today". On reflection, I thought that surely the threat to withdraw the whip from Tory rebels on an industrial scale wouldn't really be carried out, because it would be such an unprecedented act of self-harm. But amazingly it's happened, and among many others, the following people are no longer Tory MPs...
Ken Clarke: Longest serving member of the House of Commons, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, minister in the governments of Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron, candidate in multiple Conservative leadership elections
Philip Hammond: Chancellor of the Exchequer as recently as July
Rory Stewart: International Development Secretary as recently as July, one of Boris Johnson's fellow candidates in this summer's leadership election, pride of "The Middleland"
David Gauke: Justice Secretary as recently as July
Ed Vaizey: Culture Secretary for six years
Justine Greening: Education Secretary for two years
Dominic Grieve: Attorney-General for four years
Comparisons are being made with the nine 'whipless wonders' who John Major stripped the whip from after a Maastricht rebellion, but really there is no comparison at all: those were a collection of oddbods who (with the exception of Teddy Taylor) had never got anywhere near high office. I can't believe the purpose of this draconian action was to produce a deterrent effect either before or after the event, because it must have been obvious that was never going to work. So I suspect the rebellion tonight was used as a pretext for squaring a circle that I was never sure could be squared - ie. how could Boris Johnson fight an election on a No Deal platform with the likes of Dominic Grieve standing under Tory colours. But if purifying the Tory candidate base was the real aim, that must mean that Johnson and Cummings have been committed to an autumn election for some time, because they've just moved past the point of no return. No matter what happens in the votes tomorrow, the parliamentary arithmetic can quite simply no longer sustain a Tory government this side of an election.
Incidentally, it's not strictly true to say that the government have just lost their majority, because they've actually been a minority government since June 2017. I've been as guilty of a loose use of language as anyone else. A confidence and supply deal is not the same thing as a coalition - the DUP remained outside the government and were not committed to following the government whip on all votes. But what was previously a minority government that commanded the confidence of the House is now clearly a very different beast.