Perhaps Theresa May will enjoy Christmas after all. For today came the first faint signs in the Commons that she has weathered the storm.
Her Eurosceptic opponents on her own benches no longer sound so irreconcilable, so determined to push the argument to an actual rupture in the Conservative Party.
The people who sounded intransigeant were the supporters of a second referendum. Again and again they demanded that the Prime Minister stop “running down the clock” and threatening them with a choice between her deal and no deal.
They are the ones who are being driven mad by the fear that May is going to cheat them of their longed-for prize. In their voices could be heard an undertone of hysteria, inadequately concealed by their angry protestations that they believe in democracy and the Prime Minister does not.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the rising hope of the stern unbending Tories, instead rose and congratulated the Prime Minister “on winning the confidence of the Conservatives in the House”, which meant “she therefore commands my confidence too”.
That was handsome, and Rees-Mogg went on to make common cause with May in opposing “the Losers’ Vote”, as he rudely called the People’s Vote. He argued that if there was a second EU referendum, “it would be very hard to deny a second referendum in Scotland”.
No Scottish Nationalist had the gall to deny the force of his point. The head of steam building behind a second referendum has had the effect of making the Brexiteers feel they had better take what they can get from May.
According to Jeremy Corbyn, “The Prime Minister has led us into a national crisis.” But what was Corbyn going to do about it? He dropped his motion of no confidence, then reinstated it: an action likely to solidify her support, while making him look silly.
The Chief Whip listened intently to the exchanges. In his alert way, he communicated the confidence of a manager who sees the game going his own team’s way. Several Tory backbenchers backed the Prime Minister, Dame Cheryl Gillan, Sir Peter Bottomley and Sir Edward Leigh among them.
Nobody on her own side seemed to be making a sincere effort to sink her. Nicky Morgan said people will want to know “why the House is going on holiday for two weeks when we should be having the meaningful vote this week”.
But in one of Evelyn Waugh’s war novels, almost everyone is relieved an attack is not, after all, going to take place. And in the Commons, there is a somewhat inglorious sense of relief that the Christmas holiday is – barring some last-minute act of madness – actually going to happen.
The wind has changed in May’s favour. It will some day change again, but for her, this was an encouraging afternoon.