Chris Lloyd watches another extraordinary day in Parliament when the Brexit logjam triumphed once more

SO last night in the crazy, topsy-turvy world of Brexit, the Prime Minister, who says he doesn’t want a general election, voted for a general election whereas the Leader of the Opposition, who for the last two years has been demanding a general election, voted against a general election.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has only been in power for 42 days, is already not in power, and so he lost.

This is Alice in Wonderland politics. The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, hailed the PM’s defeat over the election as a great victory – but then he said that he might vote for an election within days should the Bill banning a no-deal Brexit enter into law, thus tying Mr Johnson’s negotiating hands.

However, with Britain sinking to the point that it becomes ungovernable, it was far from clear that Mr Corbyn’s MPs agreed with him over the election. Some Labour MPs felt it wasn’t credible to call for an election and then vote against one, and other Labour MPs were against an election at all costs. They wish to keep an impotent Mr Johnson – who promised that he would “do or die” Brexit on October 31 – in No 10 to stew in his own juices, unable to do anything, and so he must die when the Brexit deadline passes.

Perhaps an election is the only way to make progress out of this mess, yet, in a divided country, there is no guarantee that it would result in a strong government.

The Conservatives are ahead in the polls. They may benefit from a Boris bounce – his energy and enthusiasm for Brexit, allied to his colourful character, has been attractive in comparison to the drabness of his predecessor, Theresa May. But the last few days have revealed an ugly side to his nature: an unpleasant, aggressive, underhand side, and he seems to have no new ideas on how to secure the deal he says he wants.

Mrs May failed because she deliberately chose to take a lonely path to Brexit, excluding everyone but her closest circle. Mr Johnson hasn’t learned the lesson about the importance of inclusion. His has been a confrontational Brexit, alienating 21 of his most senior MPs and not winning over any wavering MPs on the opposition benches. He too has failed to form a consensus, and so he, like Mrs May, is stuck in a logjam, unable to forge forward.

At Mr Johnson’s first Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mrs May sat behind him, looking down on him, flanked on either side by Conservative MPs from whom he had removed the whip – although now ex-Conservative MPs, they appeared to be goading him into physically removing them from the Conservative benches. Mrs May was as grim-faced as ever, but inside her heart must be have been bursting with schadenfreude as she saw her ambitious successor flounder on the rocks of the mathematics that holed her premiership below the waterline.

Perhaps an election will give Mr Johnson hope. At least, unlike Labour, he would go into it with a clear message. He would say he was on the side of the people against the Brexit-blocking Parliament. He would lose seats in remain places – in Scotland, to the SNP, and in London, cities and university towns to the LibDems who are unequivocal in their desire to remain.

To compensate, he would have to win seats in leave-minded places like the North-East, where Labour’s uncertain stance – is it a remain party, is it a referendum party, is it a leave party? – is not winning hearts. Perhaps Mr Johnson might seduce seats like Stockton South and Darlington, but the Brexit Party would also fancy picking up seats along the coast.

So a new parliament could well be as unable to act as the current parliament.

At some point, though, a prime minister will have to force a parliament to make a decision: if MPs don’t want to leave with a no-deal Brexit and they don’t want to remain in the EU, they will have to agree to a deal.

In a measure of how mad yesterday was, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock accidentally passed an amendment to the no-deal Bill – accidentally, because his own party abstained and the Tories failed to put up tellers to count their votes against it. Thus it snuck through. His amendment instructs the Prime Minister to productively use the extension to January 31 by dusting down a version of Theresa May’s deal that sunk to the heaviest defeats in Parliamentary history, and making it work.

It sounds too ridiculous for even Lewis Carroll: a deal that is deader even than a dodo is to be brought back to life.

We will probably – somehow - get to an election before this happens. The election will be full of bluff and bluster, sound and fury, and may not get us anywhere. But Mr Kinnock is right: someone has to be adult enough to rise above it all and begin to find a consensual deal. We can’t go on like this, not in and yet not out, just stuck in this neither-neitherland for never and never.