Chris Moncrieff: Political vultures circling around Theresa May as crucial Commons vote approaches
Will Theresa May go down in British political history as 'The Great Survivor' or will she be mortally wounded, in a political sense, in what has been called the 'car crash' of a no-deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister's situation could hardly look more bleak. Hopes that the Christmas break might change a few minds to support her much-mauled Brexit plan were rudely dashed. It did not happen.
In fact, opinions seemed to harden. Never before in living memory, has the Conservative Party been in such a pugnacious and rebellious mood towards its leader.
The crucial vote will now take place in the Commons on or around January 14. But you are left with the inevitable conclusion that, despite some brave words from the Prime Minister, no one, including her most loyal supporters, seems to think it will succeed.
Another five days of debate in the Commons is unlikely to change any minds, unless the Government come up with a virtual reversal of the deal. But that won't happen.
What makes a bad situation worse is the fact the Government itself seems to have resigned itself for defeat.
They are already publicly working on what they should do in the event of a no-deal outcome. Rarely has a government been in such a pathetic mess.
So, what happens next if MPs, as expected, reject the May proposal? Labour will instantly call for the Prime Minister's resignation, but will probably fall short of demanding a general election.
But whatever happens in the Commons vote, it will take months - if not years - to repair the horrendous damage the Tories have inflicted on themselves.
The Prime Minister has acted bravely and unswervingly throughout these tempestuous proceedings. It is difficult to see what else she could do.
But if it is bad news for the Prime Minister, her authority will have been blown to smithereens.
As illegal migrants are landing on our shores, having made the perilous voyage across the English Channel in totally unsuitable boats, we are sending out our own vessels and not only rescuing them, but helping them over.
Obviously, we cannot leave these people in danger of drowning. But we should take them aboard and return them to France.
Do those who say we should accept all these people not realise there is a huge housing shortage in this country?
That thousands are forced to sleep in the streets, that we are constantly and quite properly told to be careful about the amount of water we use, that schools are overflowing and that the National Health Service is close to breaking-point?
In short, the country is already full to bursting.
I recently came cross the sad plight of a young, hard-working plumber, a cheerful black man from north-east London.
He told an acquaintance of mine that he now no longer dares to go out in the evening because it is too dangerous.
So, he felt compelled to spend New Year's Eve in his dismal flat with a housemate and a couple of bottles of beer for company.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan predictably says he will spare no effort to try to end the appalling scale of bloodshed in the capital. But what on earth can he do?
The police should ignore all protests on any decisions to step up even further their stop-and-search powers.
The staunching of bloodshed is far more important than the inconvenience which this policy may cause to an increasing number of people.
But what is probably more important - and much harder to achieve than any other policy - is to smash the gang culture. And that, alas, is far more easily said than done. The outlook is not rosy.
A family wanted to sell their home by raffling it at £10 a ticket. That seemed pretty harmless.
Yet, the official gambling authorities immediately stopped it, saying it was illegal.
They acted swiftly enough in that case, so why has it taken the Government ages to crack down on certain gambling machines in betting shops, which have caused financial ruin and utter poverty? How did they get their priorities so dangerously wrong?
As Margaret Thatcher said (in a very different context): "It's a funny old world."