In playing hardball, Boris Johnson may be underrating his rivals

Brexit and election threats mean the only certainty for the prime minister is uncertainty

Boris “I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election” Johnson may very soon be asking MPs to give him the two-thirds majority he needs to send voters to the polls – as government briefing made clear soon after his statement outside No 10.

His short speech on Monday evening against a backdrop of chanting protesters was aimed squarely at exasperated voters: if we have to have a general election, don’t blame me.

The outcome of Tuesday’s attempt by backbenchers to take control of the parliamentary timetable to try to block a no-deal Brexit is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Party discipline has been fraying at the edges throughout the many months of this fractious hung parliament.

But by threatening to impose the severest sanction – permanent expulsion – on rebels, Johnson is effectively challenging them to choose between what they believe to be the national interest, and any political future inside their party. The stakes could not be higher.