BRIDGWATER and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger was among the Tories who rejected the Prime Minister's deal.

Here, he outlines why he voted against his party leader, yet still backs her as PM - and how this historic defeat may help her in the long run...

THERE was no arguing with the overwhelming arithmetic of the vote.

Mrs May’s deal received a substantial thumbs down from the House of Commons.

In the end, after listening to every shade of opinion in the constituency, I came down against it too – against the deal that is, but certainly not against the Prime Minister.

On the contrary. I believe she did her level best, and more, to squeeze Brussels hard. It was by no means a personal failure that the withdrawal agreement thrashed out and offered by 27 picky EU partners was riddled with so many risks that many of us felt unable to support it.

So, in a perverse way, Parliament may have done Mrs May a favour by saying “No”.

Less capable Prime Ministers might have quaked and dived for cover in the face of defeat. Not this one.

Instead she faced up to what had happened and began to move the whole debate constructively forward.

If anyone wanted to challenge her leadership in a vote of confidence they could do so, very quickly indeed.

Theresa May frequently surprises her critics by acting decisively and fast. She has already begun talks with all the parties at Westminster to find any fresh way of securing agreement at home.

Her critics may call this “sticking-plaster politics”, just another face-saving exercise, but I see grounds for real hope.

We always knew that negotiating with the EU would be a struggle. The deal that has been so decisively rejected was what they wanted.

Now we are in a much stronger position to tell them what we want.

I can understand why people in Bridgwater and West Somerset, particularly businesses and farmers, may be anxious. Uncertainty is always uncomfortable.

But the constituency I represent voted by a substantial margin to leave and I trust the Prime Minister’s ability to deliver for all of us.