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Who are Theresa May's foes in Parliament?

Nicky Morgan is one of several MPs being criticised. Credit: PA

We are witnessing a titanic struggle between the executive - personified by the prime minister - and Parliament.

That much is true.

But is this anti-democratic or grotesquely unconstitutional or a coup or an attempt by a handful of arrogant MPs to shamelessly refuse to implement the revealed will of the British people that the UK should leave the European Union?

Because today you will hear and read the widespread charge of treachery against backbench Tories like Dominic Grieve, Nick Boles, Nicky Morgan, Sir Oliver Letwin and Dame Caroline Spelman - for daring to seek a single day of Commons business shaped by MPs and not by the executive, so MPs can reveal their Brexit preference.

But surely the accusation of infamy is bizarre.

Here is why.

Liam Fox said MPs were trying to 'steal Brexit'. Credit: PA

First, leaving the EU is the most important decision this country has taken in decades, and the ramifications on our prosperity, security and influence in the world will resonate for many more decades.

Second, the prime minister's plan to leave the EU was not just resoundingly defeated by MPs, it was defeated by a margin of historic proportions - and those most responsible for her defeat are the Tory Brexit MPs who (along with some close to the PM) are now accusing the Grieveses, Boleses and Letwins of betraying democracy and the prime minister, even though Boles, Letwin, Spelman, Morgan et al (though not Grieves) actually backed the PMs Brexit plan.

Third, throughout most of British history, a defeat of such momentous importance for the nation and a government would have been followed in short order, probably by a general election, and failing, that by the resignation of a prime minister.

Neither has happened, partly because of the legacy of the last prime minister David Cameron whose Fixed Term Parliament Act makes it almost impossible for MPs to throw out a failing government, and partly because those same outraged Tory Brexiters launched a premature coup before Christmas against the PM - which means that she is now safe in office for another year.

Dominic Grieve wants a no-deal off the table. Credit: PA

So the normal valves in the British constitution that let pressure out of the system when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the executive and the legislature are not functioning properly.

But the genius of the British constitution is its adaptability.

All the Boleses, Letwins and Greiveses are doing - with the help of the clerks of the Commons - is finding another valve.

The point is that right now it is unclear whether the PM has the authority to get any version of Brexit through the Commons.

So is it really so scandalous for Tory and Labour backbenchers to join forces to express their collective will - which could take the form of binding legislation or an indicative motion - that a no-deal Brexit should be taken off the table, given that they take the view that a no-deal Brexit would wreak havoc to this country's prosperity and security?

The PM may beg to differ. But in a democracy, differences on an issue of such magnitude are quite properly debated and resolved by elected representatives, not ruled as improper by a threatened executive.

Rees-Mogg could end up voting for the prime minister's revised deal. Credit: PA

For the avoidance of doubt, even if the Boleses and Letwins have their day, it is by no means certain that the EU would acquiesce as and when the MPs force the PM to sue for a delay to the moment the UK leaves the EU - especially if that delay is simply so that the UK could have more time agonising about what kind of Brexit it may or may not want, rather than for a definable express purpose (like a referendum or a general election).

There is also a hilarious paradox here, which those in Downing Street who see Boles, Letwin and Grieves as the enemy have seemingly failed to notice.

The Brexiter rebels have made it plain they would rather have a no-deal Brexit than the prime minister's version of Brexit. But as Jacob Rees-Mogg confirms in the Mail on Sunday only today, they would rather have May's Brexit to no Brexit at all.

So the inescapable logic of what Rees-Mogg says is that if Boles, Letwin and Co were to succeed in taking no-deal off the table, then Rees-Mogg and his Brexiter allies would feel compelled to back the PM's reworked Brexit - and just maybe her deal would be endorsed by the Commons, at the very last.

For what it's worth, when I speak with the likes of Letwin, Boles and Grieves, one of their constant refrains is whether the PM is capable of understanding who her real friends may actually be.