Theresa May survives to lose another day.
Her victory will enable her to move to further humiliations and ensure the Tories find no way out of their impasse.
Tory MPs voted 200 votes to 117 votes to say they had confidence in May as leader of the Conservative Party. Another confidence motion cannot now be discussed by Tory MPs for 12 months.
Over a third of ToryMPs voted against May, emphasising that she cannot pass her Brexit deal through parliament.
Two MPs, Andrew Griffith and Charlie Elphicke, who were suspended from the Tory pariiamentary group over sexual harrassement, were disgracefully reinstated to help May cling on.
But the confirmation that such a substantial number of her own MPs want her out now underlines her weakness and the splits in the party.
In a Sun newspaper column on Wednesday morning Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote that May’s approach to Brexit was like a Carry On film and “absurd”. He added that her handling of Brexit was "hopeless".
From the other side of the Tories, chancellor Philip Hammond decried those who were against May as “extremists” who had to be “flushed out”.
And May’s position is so weak that in the run-up to the vote her spokesperson said, “This vote isn’t about who leads the party into the next election”. Essentially May’s pitch was that she can’t beat Jeremy Corbyn but she’s useful to take the flak for now.
May had two strong cards to play.
The first was the threat of further chaos if she were removed at this stage of the Brexit talks. Big business is terrified enough already by May’s inability to secure a Brexit that protects profit-making as much as possible.
The prospect of at least two weeks without a prime minister would have unnerved them further.
The second was that there was no obvious replacement for her—certainly nobody that could offer more hope of a Brexit deal. The assorted horrors of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and Esther McVey would give pause to anyone who wanted to have a credible candidate at a general election.
And each would intensify the Tories’ splits because they are either too obsessed with leaving the European Union (EU) or want a second vote.
Tory MPs decided May was the least bad option.
But the result does not change the arithmetic of the House of Commons where there is no majority for her Brexit deal—and possibly no majority for any other outcome.
May now returns to her journey around Europe seeking changes to the agreement that was lashed together just over two weeks ago.
But she is not getting any encouragement. This week she visited German leader Angela Merkel. Afterwards Merkel reported, “We said that there will be no further opening of the exit deal”.
The Tories are so at odds that serious resistance could make it impossible for them to continue.
It’s time to kick them while they’re down.
But they will stagger on, attacking working class people and destroying lives unless they are forced out.
Tory MPs have made their decision. Ordinary people have to deliver their own verdict, and that means pressuring the unions and Labour to stop spectating and start fighting on every front.
The relentless message of “go now” has to go out from Corbyn, and be backed by calls for action