After 24 hours of great drama, in the end, are we back where we started? Chris Lloyd watches the dust settle following Thursday night's vote of confidence

AFTER a momentous, tumultuous day of upheaval, as the dust settled last night, very little had changed.

“The result of the ballot is that the Parliamentary party does have confidence in Theresa May,” said Sir Graham Brady, chair of the backbench committee, at 9pm last night, with theatrical emphasis on the word “does”.

But it was not a ringing endorsement: 200 votes to 117. So just over a third of her own MPs do not have confidence in the Prime Minister. John Major, in his biography, said that if he had won a similar vote when he was Prime Minister in 1995 by such a narrow margin, he would have resigned. When Margaret Thatcher got 204 votes in the first round of her leadership contest in 1990, she was gone within days.

But Mrs May, as we know, does not give up. She fights obdurately on. She has clung to power for nearly two years by the slimmest of margins, by the well chewed white bits at the end of her fingertips, without a Parliamentary majority, and so for her little has changed. On she ploughs to Brussels, drawing on her extraordinary reservoir of hope that someone, somewhere, will offer a concession that will get her deal through.

She is weakened by yesterday’s events. She is weakened by the sight of a group of her own MPs – MPs who are supposed to be loyal to her - turning on her in her hour of desperation. But she knew they were there all along. Indeed, David Cameron came up with the wheeze of a Euro-referendum in in the first place in a bid to silence them.

She is weakened by her admission that she will not fight the next scheduled election in 2022. When in 2006, Tony Blair admitted he wouldn’t run again, authority quickly drained away from him as the jockeying for his position began.

But for Mrs May, nothing has changed. That jockeying has been going on for months, and anyone who saw her performance during the 2017 election would know that the party would be mad to let her lead it into a second election.

And she is weakened by the closeness of the result. But it wasn’t bad enough to kill her off immediately, so nothing has changed. She has been weak since she threw away her majority in 2017 and has suffered embarrassment after embarrassment, resignation after resignation, setback after setback, ever since. She went into last night managing a football team that was losing 20-0. It then let in a couple more embarrassing goals which makes the scoreline look a little worse, but the overall judgement of the team’s play remains the same: very weak.

Her right-wing opponents are also weakened. The hounds of hard Brexit were revealed to be so toothless that they could not bring down a Prime Minister who is on the verge of exhaustion.

And so the British Parliament remains logjammed, with a Prime Minister too weak to push her deal through the blockages and down the flume.

It’s stuck tight. Some major change in the weather – a political hurricane – is required to blast a way through the obstacles. It could come from a significant concession from Europe, it could come from Labour forcing a general election, it could come from a second referendum, and it could have come from Conservative MPs bringing down their own leader or from Mrs May being forced to resign.

Those last two weather patterns are not now part of the short range forecast. The EU shows no signs of granting a significant alteration to the backstop agreement. Labour does not have the mathematics to win a general election (in fact, they slightly worsened as two Tory MPs suspended for alleged misdemeanours had the whip mysteriously restored to them yesterday afternoon in return for their vote in favour of the Prime Minister, so the Tories are back to having 317 MPs). And it is no clearer as to how a second referendum could be called.

So we are still stuck. Still stuck with just Mrs May’s deal on the table. The leader who promised strong and stable government is still weak and unable to get her deal through. Having avoided the meaningful vote, and having avoided being scalped by her own side, Mrs May’s tactic now seems to be to run the clock down, to wait until mid-January when Parliament will face a stark and sobering choice. When there is no time left for any alternative to be cooked up, MPs will have to decide: her deal or the calamity of a no-deal.

It’s hard to see her getting that far but, equally, it is hard to see what will stop her. The chaos and the tumult will continue – nothing, after all, has changed.