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Has the Prime Minister cracked her Chief Whip?

Theresa May's speech on Wednesday evening has been widely criticised. Credit: PA

If last night's statement from the Prime Minister was designed to 'crack the whip', then she's succeeded - her Chief Whip is indeed feeling broken.

I understand her sermon from the No10 lectern – damning of her Parliamentary colleagues on Brexit – has snapped the final bond of trust between Theresa May and Julian Smith - the man she relies on to deliver discipline, and most importantly, votes.

In the tea rooms and offices of Parliament, the Chief Whip has been openly admitting today that he found last night's statement in Downing Street "appalling."

That is quite the outburst for a man known - indeed hired - for his discretion.

Chief Whip Julian Smith has reportedly been expressing displeasure at his boss' speech. Credit: PA

Having railed against the intransigence of MPs last night, blaming them for the impasse in Parliament, rather than her own inability to find a compromise, I understand the Whips' Office now feel the PM has made their efforts virtually pointless.

MPs have not been persuaded to switch and back her deal in a third Meaningful Vote next week, given she has blamed them entirely for the fact that she cannot get it through. Furthermore, at a time when communication between No10 and No9 (the official office of the Chief Whip) couldn't be any more vital, I understand the phone lines may as well be cut.

"She just won't listen to us," Julian Smith told one MP.

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All sense that the PM understands the reality in Parliament has been lost. When we filmed with Julian Smith back in November and December in the run up to the first Meaningful Vote (remember those heady days?), it was clear then that he understood his unenviable task was virtually impossible.

But back then, he was also - perhaps inadvisably - determined and optimistic.

He told me defiantly: "I like winning."

But from my conversations with MPs today, the Chief Whip now knows this is a battle that in all likelihood he can only lose.

The sense of purpose to his mission has been lost.

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He's carrying the can for a beleaguered Prime Minister who refuses to listen.

Of course, rifts in Government aren't unusual.

But while some can be managed, no Prime Minister can survive without a Chief Whip.

You know all discipline really has broken down when even the Chief Whip is telling MPs he can no longer provide it.