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Why May might not be going anytime soon

While MPs in the House of Commons chamber debated their alternative Brexit proposals, the prime minister was presenting an entirely different one to her Conservative colleagues.

Theresa May made clear to her party's 1922 committee she was sticking to her Plan A, but with the added offer that she is willing to sacrifice her office to see her Brexit deal pass.

It was the price some Tory MPs had named for their support and – as they emerged from a packed committee room 14 in the Palace of Westminster – some praised her dignity.

Others said it was a sombre moment of honesty, with at least 10 previous rebels said to have been moved to switch position and back the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

But even dangling the offer of self-defenestration may not be enough.

May says she made 'some mistakes' as she vows to quit

May says she made 'some mistakes' as she vows to quit

The prime minister reveals her plan to stand down at a meeting of the Tories' 1922 committee

Among the hardline critics of the deal, from both the eurosceptic and europhile sides of the Conservative Party, there were several who gave no indication they were enticed by the prospect of a leadership opening.

Their concerns are with the deal itself – be it the backstop, the financial settlement attached to it, or the "blind" nature of the future economic relationship it would commit the country to.

So while the prospective votes may have been moved in the prime minister's direction by her offer to step down in, the numbers may well still not be there to make up for the huge parliamentary defeats she has been dealt in her previous two attempts at passing her deal.

With the DUP still withholding their backing, the prime minister's apparent inability to entirely dissolve the rebellion in her own party means she will still need Labour backing.

A consequence of announcing her departure in the event the Brexit deal is passed might be that those Labour votes do not materialise to the degree required.

What different types of Brexit will MPs vote on today?

What different types of Brexit will MPs vote on today?

The Commons will exercise its nearly unprecedented power in a bid to find a way forward in the face of Theresa May's two defeats

Those MPs would not just be voting for Brexit, but a Brexit under the potential leadership of Boris Johnson or Michael Gove.

That will be an argument Labour's whips push them on very hard.

With Wednesday's indicative votes process opening the possibility of a Brexit less tied to a Tory, that argument may prove persuasive.

All this makes another point particularly important – Mrs May gave no indication of what would happen if her deal does not pass.

Not a single Tory MP in the 1922 committee meeting asked her the question.

So while we now know that Mrs May will make way for a new Tory leader over the summer if her deal passes, she has made no commitment to leave in the event her twice-defeated withdrawal agreement does not get approval.

The irony of all this is that after losing her majority in the 2017 general election, the scenario proposed by the prime minister tonight was precisely what most in the party had expected.

In numerous conversations with some of her most loyal ministers and aides in the fallout of that disastrous election, I was told she would continue to lead through the first phase of Brexit negotiations.

She would then make way for a new leader in good time for them to establish their own credentials ahead of the next national vote in 2022.

She'll be gone in May 2019, one aide told me – and that was back in late 2017.

And yet by articulating that very scenario, Mrs May has played what she hopes will be the ace card in finally getting her deal passed.

If it doesn't work, she might not be going anywhere anytime soon.

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