I remember as a youngster in Malta when Malta had an utterly pathetic football team, a 4-0 defeat in, say, Germany would be hailed by the local papers as a moral victory. We hadn’t lost by the expected 12-0.
So it is with the vote of confidence in the Prime Minister. Nobody has (yet) cast doubt on the idea that 200 is, by convention, a bigger number that 117 and that therefore Mrs May won the confidence vote.
But, for the ERG, this is a substantial defeat for the PM because more than half of Tory backbenchers (ie those not on the government payroll) voted against the government. Mrs May should immediately visit the Queen and resign according to Jacob Rees-Mogg. We all, of course, expect that advice to be taken to heart.
As the Prime Minister would say, nothing has changed. And that is broadly true. We are still at the same Brexit impasse. There is still no majority for the proposed deal. There is still no chance that the EU will grant the Prime Minister anything that comes close to meeting the expressed wishes of the DUP, Labour, the ERG, the SNP or anyone else.
And a second failed coup will not persuade the hard-Brexiteers to go back into their box. Nobody knows what happens next.
Except that some things have changed. It is now clear that Mrs May’s shelf life will likely not last much beyond the end of March – if that long. Her authority has been dealt another body blow. There is talk that the cabinet will abandon the line that there is no Plan B and is now seriously considering one in the form of a ‘managed no deal’ exit.
Such an approach, if it can be defined, might just squeak through parliament if pro-EU Tories fold.
But the big remaining question is: just how deep and visceral has the Tory Brexiteers’ dislike of Mrs May become? If Labour were now to submit a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister, it could pass if Tory Brexiteers abstained.
Having suffered two humiliating failed coups, that is not to be ruled out. What such an outcome would do to the Tory party is unimaginable.
They do say that there are no wars that are as vicious as civil wars.