Many analogies are being drawn between the decline of this government and that of the John Major administration in the mid 1990s. Some are apt, some are not. In some ways this is worse because John Major had no parliamentary majority at all latterly, while Gordon Brown still has a majority of more than 60. But it is clear that parliamentary discipline is at a low point.
The thuggish group of whips who have traditionally instilled fear into Labour MPs are now the subject of scorn and ridicule. Nick Brown, John Spellar, Tommy McAvoy and Ian Austin have lost control, as evidenced by the Gurkha votes. No fewer than 12 government PPSs abstained. In normal circumstances that would have been a sackable offence. Threats, blackmail and coercion no longer work as whipping tactics. Labour MPs feel they owe nothing to the Prime Minister. Some openly laugh when they are threatened by whips. When Ian Austin stood at the entrance to the Aye lobby during the Gurkhas vote Labour MPs just walked past him shaking their heads in disdain.
The result? The government lost a parliamentary vote on an Opposition motion for the first time ever. Quite an achievement, really.
And this is only the beginning. As the Revolts website noted last week. Once you've rebelled once, it's easier to do it a second time.