“WHAT a crowded, tumultuous and changeful House the crisis assembled!” said The Northern Echo on its front page the day after the Government suffered the heaviest defeat in Parliamentary history.

Conservative speakers were subjected to “a continuous fire of interruptions” from Labour MPs, and when the Prime Minister spoke “scorn, anger, pride all found expressions in his speech, and his party was made ecstatic by the closing passage in which he said defeat meant the end of the Government”.

This is, of course, from the Echo of October 9, 1924, when Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government fell to a monstrous 166 vote defeat – the largest defeat until this week when Theresa May’s government plumbed new depths with a 230 vote defeat.

The issue at stake was whether MacDonald’s government – which featured the former Darlington mayor and Barnard Castle MP Arthur Henderson as Home Secretary – had been right to drop the prosecution of John Ross Campbell, the acting editor of the Workers’ Weekly, a Communist paper. It had carried an anonymous letter urging members of the armed forces not “to fire at fellow workers” but instead to train their weapons on the “exploiters and capitalists”, and Campbell had been arrested under the 1797 Incitement to Mutiny Act.

But, when someone actually read the letter, it was an appeal to the army not to shoot strikers – something most backbench Labour MPs agreed with – and then it emerged that Campbell “had had both feet practically blown off in the war”, as the Echo’s front page said. The Attorney-General, Sir Patrick Hastings, therefore had to decide whether it would look seemly to prosecute Campbell, who was despised for being a Communist but well regarded for being a decorated war hero.

The issue became murkier because the MacDonald government’s relationship with Russia was nearly as questionable as Donald Trump’s is today. When the Attorney-General dropped the prosecution, the Conservative and Liberal parties ganged up to vote for an inquiry. They won by a record 166 votes. MacDonald’s government fell and a general election was called immediately.

The 20-day campaign was one of the most bitter of the 20th Century, especially as four days before polling day the Daily Mail published a letter from a Russian Communist, Grigory Zinoviev, purporting to show how reds under everyone’s beds were organising in Britain to help Labour. The Zinoviev letter was the talk of the country, and it ensured an overwhelming victory for the Conservatives.

It was also a forgery. It was fake news (although no one to this day knows who wrote it) and it fuelled a sense of injustice within Labour that the Establishment had connived to cheat it out of the election.

Ninety years later, we live in a very different world. After Mrs May stole MacDonald’s record for the biggest Parliamentary humiliation, she didn’t have to resign – in fact, some commentators feel that due to the Alice in Wonderland nature of today’s politics, the enormity of her defeat has strengthened her position in arguing for concessions from the European Union.

Ninety years later, the inexplicable entanglements that lay behind the strange-looking word “Zinoviev” have been completely forgotten. In 90 years time, will the incomprehensible entanglements that lie behind the odd-looking word “Brexit” be forgotten or will we still be ruing its consequences?