IT has become an almost a cliche to pay tribute to the Prime Minister’s resilience while simultaneously deriding her lack of political nous.

She is stubborn and dogged, her supporters say. She never gives up. She hung around to clear up the Brexit mess left by her awful predecessor. Only a hard heart could disagree with this analysis.

Theresa May also deserves a degree of sympathy for her decision to push for a general election in 2017. Almost every commentator, it should be recalled, believed she would rout Jeremy Corbyn and lay the path for a Brexit deal. The fault lay in the hapless campaign she led, not in the triggering of an election.

Nearly two years later, May is the central character in a Westminster horror story. No matter how she rolls the dice, no majority appears to exist for any form of Brexit. She is bringing back her draft withdrawal agreement this week, but she is in need of a political miracle.

This is where personal sympathy ends and political blame can rightly be aimed in her direction. May, and nobody else, is the architect of a Brexit impasse that could see the UK crash out of the European Union without a deal. MPs “voted” against this outcome last week, but only EU member states can grant an extension to Article 50. The EU can name its price.

May’s historic blunder was in laying out a series of Brexit “red lines” at her party’s conference in 2016. Showing off in front of the Tory faithful, she ruled out the UK staying in either the customs union or the single market, which at a stroke necessitated the creation of the hated Northern Ireland backstop. Withdrawing the UK from the scope of the European Court of Justice - a May obsession from her days at the Home Office - was also written in blood.

Her rigid approach may have drawn applause from hundreds of elderly Tories in the conference hall, but the red lines made it impossible for Labour, the SNP or the Lib Dems to support her Brexit plan. She put herself at the mercy of right-wing colleagues in European Research Group and the Democratic Unionist Party. The ideologues were given a veto.

May’s mistake was in forgetting her party’s history. In 1995, John Major was challenged for the leadership by Cabinet colleague John Redwood, whose campaign was motivated by hostility to the EU. A photograph of his supporters from that period is a historical curiosity. It shows a small band of hardliners - people like the late Teddy Taylor and Teresa Gorman - who could not compromise on their loathing of the EU. This grouplet is now a large faction and is blocking May’s deal. She has allowed herself to be captured by the ERG and held hostage.

Brexit is consuming the nation, but the UK’s departure from the EU is a tragic plot line in a Tory soap opera. David Cameron committed his party to a referendum in a bid to appease his right wing and stop the rise of UKIP. He refrained from “blue on blue” attacks during the campaign for fear of splitting the Conservatives. From beginning to end, Cameron was concerned about party management. May has copied this insular strategy.

Her flawed approach brings two options into focus this week. The first is for her ERG tormentors to back her deal, which would be followed by a short extension to Article 50. Few people expect the militants to turn into eleventh-hour pragmatists. The second option is, on the back of her deal being rejected for a third time, to ask the EU for a much lengthier delay.

Such an outcome would present a huge opportunity for a Prime Minister who was concerned with bringing the country together, rather than healing her party’s wounds. With a year’s breathing room, she could ditch her red lines and hurl the ERG into obscurity. If May backed either a soft Brexit, or a confirmatory vote on her deal, a majority of MPs would follow her.

The last thirty years suggest that May will look inwards, not outwards. Europe brought down Thatcher, Major and Cameron. Expect the same obsession to claim a fourth scalp.