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Why has Labour backed away from no-confidence vote?

Labour has so-far backed away from tabling a motion of no confidence in the Government. Credit: PA

I can’t remember the last time a turkey actually voted for Christmas. So I find it difficult to empathise greatly with Labour’s outrage that Theresa May hasn’t created time in the Commons schedule tomorrow for its vote of no confidence in her.

Perhaps more surprising is that Jeremy Corbyn has backed away from what Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown told the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight - namely that as and when Downing Street refused to provide time for Corbyn’s unusual motion, that would be followed by Labour putting down a more conventional and robust no-confidence motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, because such a motion could not be buried by the Government.

But Corbyn has refused at the first fence. And as one very senior Labour source told me tonight, “we look like blithering idiots; we have turned a vote of no confidence in Theresa May into a manifestation of our incompetence”.

That may be a bit harsh.

Mrs May did not appear impressed with Mr Corbyn's motion of no confidence. Credit: PA

But passions are running high, not because anyone at the top of the party thinks Labour would win a proper no-confidence vote and force a general election, but because of what would follow the end of the party’s dream of an early general election.

The point is that under the notorious Brexit motion passed at Labour conference, the party’s leadership can’t contemplate championing a People’s Vote or another EU referendum unless and until it has failed to bring down the government.

So Labour frontbenchers tell me they assume Corbyn and his senior adviser Seumas Milne have backed away from putting down a “proper” motion of no confidence in the government because they do not yet want the final apocalyptic battle to begin between Keir Starmer and the proponents of a referendum on the one hand against the faction associated with the trade union Unite who will die in a ditch to prevent a referendum.

Labour MPs, many of whom are now madly keen on a referendum, are spitting tacks.

“Today was supposed to be about highlighting how divided the Government is” said one. “But in the end we have only highlighted how disunited we are”.