The prime minister on Monday night was defeated in his third attempt to win a general election on the other end of the line.
But with the help of the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, he may be lucky for the fourth time with a Christmas election now within reach.
In a new bet, Boris Johnson will present on Tuesday a small bill to hold an election at Brexit on December 12. The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act requires two-thirds of deputies to support a vote, but this mechanism requires a simple majority. The SNP and Lib Dems made it clear this weekend that they are in principle willing to have an election to break the deadlock.
This time, it's really a game.
PM: MPs can no longer hold this country hostage
There are still many obstacles to getting your election plan in the next 24 hours. The Lib Dems oppose the date, insisting on a December 9 poll to dissolve parliament this week and ensure Johnson cannot bring back his Brexit bill.
And some Scottish nationalists may suggest amendments – such as votes for 16- and 17-year-olds – that the government cannot live with. There are rumors of divisions within the Lib Dems and some nervousness in the SNP camp for being at Team Johnson just this once.
But if the government and opposition parties can resolve their differences, we will be going to the polls before Christmas.
It offers a moment of clarity, after days of behind-the-scenes discussions at # 10 on what the prime minister should do next once his "do or die" Halloween deadline is finally laid in bed. There was a genuine split between his advisers, cabinet and lawmakers about the strategy of arriving early and risking a general election versus trying to convince Brexit first.
Johnson has decided to bet and put Brexit on hold while he tries to get a warrant from the public. It is undoubtedly a risky strategy: Conservatives are well ahead of the Labor Party in the polls, but an election in the context of an undelivered Brexit promises to be unpredictable and volatile.
For liberal Democrats, going to an early election is a no brainer. An election before Brexit is resolved is an advantage, while the SNP wants to trigger the election before former Prime Minister Alex Salmond – who is facing trial on two counts of attempted rape and several counts of sexual assault, which he emphatically denies – appears in court early next year.
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Johnson has been pondering conflicting arguments. In one camp is the 10 Vote and Exit team – led by senior consultant Dominic Cummings and communications director Lee Cain – who think the prime minister, because he did not deliver Brexit on October 31, should now trigger the people versus parliament Elections to try to galvanize the 52% who voted for Leave in the 2016 referendum and who can still support Boris Johnson for Brexit.
In the other are those who believe the prime minister would do better to approve this bill and consolidate his place in history as a conservative leader who handed over Brexit rather than risk everything in the polls. Some officials, as well as members of its cabinet, have been pushing the government to bring back a timetable to approve the bill in November and then hold an election in the spring.
This is the line of thought "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush". It's better to try to convince Brexit than to risk everything in a general election that could result in conservatives losing Brexit altogether if you don't follow their path.
Parliamentarians fear Conservatives will face a Lib Dems tweezers on seats facing Scotland and in the pockets of England and Nigel Farage in Vote Leave areas, beating the drum of Brexit's betrayal.
Brexiteers tell me in particular that they prefer the legislation to be passed. The European Research Group (ERG) could perhaps shut up and vote on an amended Withdrawal Agreement Bill, softened by Labor and former Conservative parliamentarians, in exchange for Brexit to come true, and knowing that the Prime Minister could change the terms of a future trade deal if it wins the majority in next year's spring elections.
And the conservatives of a nation are also nervous. They pressure the prime minister to at least try to pass his Brexit bill before the elections. But whether your own cheaters try to block it is another matter.
For there are people around him who believe he should take back control of the process and return it to the voters through the ballot box. Some around him are convinced that parliament will only play with this Brexit deal like a rat with a cat, keeping him and his Brexit plan in purgatory as long as possible. He will receive neither the Brexit nor the desired election, and a weaker prime minister will emerge amid the dispute and backwardness.
With so much at stake, it is unclear whether the SNP and liberal Democrats will support their candidacy. An opposition source told me Monday night that they thought 50-50 if the election vote would be successful.
There were no elections in December in this country in almost a century. Dark winter nights are not conducive to campaigning or voter departure.
But this is Brexit and it breaks all conventions and rules. On Tuesday night, we should know if the deputies will make history and give us a Christmas poll.