Did Boris Johnson just announce an election without actually doing so?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

Image source, PA Media

Did Boris Johnson just announce an election without actually announcing an election?

He's always said that he really doesn't want to go to the country again.

Downing Street is still absolutely adamant that is still the case, and again with the formality of the No 10 podium, he insisted it was not what he wanted to do. But he also made plain that there were no circumstances in which he would ask Brussels to delay our departure from the EU.

And that means only one thing. Calling an election if, in his view, he needs to. When would he need to do that? Soon.

In No 10's judgement, if MPs, including many of his former colleagues, defeat him this week and succeed in their move to make leaving the EU without a deal illegal, their best move is to call an election, and call one quickly, as soon as 14 October.

The move is to focus the minds of Tory MPs tempted to vote against the government's position.

Downing Street's upping the ante still further - if they are part of efforts to outlaw no deal, then they will be part of forcing a general election, and stand by to watch Boris Johnson's backers point the finger at them.

But those rebels are confident of their numbers. And few of them so far seem likely to be moved by Downing Street's threats. No 10 knows therefore, they are likely to lose.

Protest he might, but Boris Johnson is dangling the threat of this election knowing full well that it is one he is more likely than not to have to follow through. He would, of course, have to persuade Parliament to back an election, and Downing Street is ready to put a motion down to that precise effect.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may well be suspicious of the PM's motives, but has always said that he'd back a poll.

So a leader who is yet to take his first Prime Minister's Questions at the despatch box may ask almost immediately for all of our judgements on whether he deserves to lead.

Brexit is again rewiring our politics - its eventual shape unknown.