Will Prime Minister Theresa May vote for or against no deal?

We have a Tory government and governing party irredeemably split on the biggest question of our age, namely how and whether to leave the European Union.

And we have a Labour opposition in a disorderly civil war between backbench MPs and Lords on the one hand, and a leadership team under Jeremy Corbyn over a perceived failure to cut the cancer of antisemitism from the party - and, perhaps worse than that, the undermining of due process by officials close to Corbyn.

In other words, there is chaos on both sides of the Commons, compounded by the collapse to zero in the working majority of Theresa May's administration following those defections to The Independent Group.

It is not just the PM of whom it could be said she's in office, but not in power.

Parliament as a whole looks like a Disneyland representation of democracy - all sound and fury, signifying little but self indulgence.

Independent Group MPs held talks with the Electoral Commission with the aim of becoming an official political party. Credit: PA

In 25 years of taking a close and perhaps unhealthy interest in politics, I've never known anything like it.

Ministers daily threaten resignation over a Brexit strategy that the PM won't actually share with them.

Backbench MPs in the tea rooms and restaurants of Westminster talk about their respective leaders with a contempt which astounds even my cynical ears.

Maybe the latter years of Wilson and and Callaghan governments felt as anarchic, but I doubt it.

The collapse of parliament into self parody is likely to be nut-shelled next week in one decision the prime minister will have to take that will follow the expected defeat for her in the "meaningful" vote on her reworked Brexit deal.

First things first: there is not a single MP or minister who expects the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to succeed in the mission he was set by parliament and the PM, which is to persuade the EU's Brexit negotiators to amend the Northern Ireland backstop so that it has a formal end date.

That mission has to all intents and purposes been abandoned - as the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt implied today, when he said that what matters is that Cox can make a formal statement in his role as the government's legal adviser that the backstop would not be indefinite.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay leave Downing Street, London, for a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Credit: PA

It is not clear Cox will even be able to say that, without humiliating himself in the court of QC opinion. But even if he does, few Tory Brexiters will declare themselves sudden converts to the PM's Brexit plan - because a "temporary" backstop could still endure for decades.

So the PM's Brexit deal will be rejected by MPs again. And the following day Theresa May will put a motion to the House asking MPs whether they want to leave the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement at the end of March, that is whether they want a no-deal Brexit.

Here is that nutshell of government and parliament as the figment of some mischievous deity's imagination - because the prime minister will have to make a decision that will expose all the contradictions in her approach to Brexit and all the mutual antipathies on her benches.

The point is she has promised more than 100 times the UK would be leaving the EU with or without a deal on March 29.

But she is also increasingly and acutely aware that leaving without a deal on that date would undermine our prosperity, security and even our health for a non-specifiable time.

So two questions follow.

First, will she stick to government policy and - via a three-line whip - force MPs and ministers to vote to keep the option of leaving without a deal on March 29 on the table?

Stephen Barclay is in Brussels on Tuesday for last-ditch talks with the EU. Credit: PA

Were she to do this, she would probably precipitate the resignations of more than 20 ministers from cabinet and lower ranks, which is the sort of accident most PM's would rather avoid.

But were she to allow a free vote, she would be conceding that on one of the most important questions of this age or any, she and the government used to have a position and a view, but now she doesn't - which is not a great look.

Second, if there is a free vote, how would she vote?

If for a no-deal Brexit, then she would probably be on the losing side, which would look very odd (to say the least), though she is racking up these historic losses like a school child collecting Pokemon game cards.

And if she votes against, then she would be betraying what she has claimed for months is in the interest of the nation.

So what will she do? How will she whip her party and vote herself in that historic no-deal vote next week?

I asked her ministers and none have a clue - she won't tell them.

How would they recommend she votes?

I asked one I would normally expect to be less religious on this issue than most.

This is what he said: "she should give a free vote and then vote herself to rule out leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement (without a deal)".

So the recommended position for this prime minister, according to one of her closest allies and supporters, would be to abandon the pretence that the government is in charge of leaving the EU - and also to admit that what she has been telling us about the virtues of no deal have been so much piffle.