THE old saying used to be ‘a week is a long time in politics’. These days, it should be something along the lines of ‘30 minutes is a long time in politics’.

Just when you think you finally know where you’re going, up pops another scenario to throw you off track again.

This week, it’s former Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach who has caused something of a stir. (I say former for no other reason than

by the time you read this, Parliament will have been dissolved and all the current MPs will be former MPs.)

So what of the aforementioned Antoinette? Just like a contestant on the X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, she has been on a journey. And what a journey it has been.

It’s not that long ago, as a member of the Conservative Party in Parliament, she took the whip and voted on no fewer than three occasions for Theresa May’s ill-fated deal to leave the European Union.

But as that deal was voted down time and again and as Mrs May’s tenuous grip on power – and her own party – started to unravel, so Ms Sandbach started on her journey.

Don’t forget, when she won the seat in 2017 – as a Tory – she had a majority of almost 12,000, which makes Eddisbury something of a safe seat for the Conservatives.

Ms Sandbach voted to leave the EU three times under the terms of former Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal. But she was one of 21 MPs who had the Tory whip withdrawn by Boris Johnson in September for voting to block a no deal Brexit.

Ten of them have since had the whip restored, and six have said they will stand down at the election. Not Ms Sandbach who also lost a vote of confidence among her local party members a couple of weeks ago.

Having declined not to toe Boris Johnson’s line and having the whip withdrawn effectively left her as an independent in Parliament but unable to stand as a Conservative in the next general election, which we all now know is the festive fun and games on December 12.

So what’s a girl to do?

Well, after the general election was called, Ms Sandbach announced she was going to stand as an independent in Eddisbury.

And then, only a couple of days later she underwent what appears to be something of a Damascene conversion and said she had joined the Liberal Democrats and was still standing in Eddisbury but now with the weight of a party machinery behind her.

Just to make sure we’re all up to speed here, Eddisbury Lib Dems had previously selected Ian Priestner to run in the constituency but it looks like he has stepped aside with a certain amount of good grace.

According to the Winsford Guardian, Mr Priestner said: “I am delighted to offer her my support and will be working closely with her to help deliver an outstanding result for our residents and to make sure she is elected as Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Eddisbury.”

Very gracious of him, what a gent.

This new situation intrigues me. Let’s look at what Ms Sandbach has to say.

In the official Liberal Democrat email to members and supporters, she said: “Brexit has fundamentally rewritten the structure and shape of our politics.

“As the chief architect of Brexit, it has warped the values and principles of the Conservative Party most of all. It is therefore inevitable that politicians and the public take stock and look at the parties they support and assess whether they are fit for purpose.

“I came into politics to fight for a one-nation, pragmatic and centrist Government.

“When I was elected, I wanted to push for action to tackle climate change, protect our NHS and improve education.

“However, as I have sat on the Government benches in the House of Commons I have worked with those across the House who share these values and throughout this process one party has been stalwart in defending and promoting them, with a clear message of remain.

“That is why after several months of consideration and discussion I have decided to join the only party that represents the values that I hold dear, the Liberal Democrats.”

That’s the classic ‘I haven’t left the party, the party has left me’ line but I think it has a certain resonance in Ms Sandbach’s case.

And she is right, this election is going to be like no other in history with politics fracturing not just along traditional left and right fault lines but along Brexit fault lines as well.

How are One Nation Tory Remainers going to vote? How are left of centre Labour Leavers going to vote? Will Ms Sandbach’s previous incarnation as a Tory MP in a Tory seat work for or against her?

The answer is we just don’t know, but one thing is certain, as a Lib Dem, she has a lot of ground to make up. In the 2017 general election, Ian Priestner picked up just 2,804 votes, amounting to a 5.5 per cent share of the vote for the Lib Dems.

Perhaps the election of 2010 (remember Cleggmania) might give a modicum of hope when 10,217 voted for Bob Thompson, earning a 22.5 per cent vote share in the election that saw the coalition government formed.

Let’s just hope no one mentions tuition fees.