After inflicting their stunning Commons defeat on Theresa May, many of the 11 Tory MPs who voted against the Government headed for the Pugin Room, the most genteel of all Parliament’s many watering holes.
The Parliamentary website calls it “an idyllic setting with wonderful views of the Thames”. A large gilt brass and crystal chandelier dominates the room and there are big shields painted with coats of arms.
How appropriate then, that these reluctant Brexit rebels should head there. For this was a genteel rebellion. Many of the 11 MPs were first-time rebels and all claimed to have voted against their party with a heavy heart.
The Pugin Room plotters included their leader Dominic Grieve and fellow rebels Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Bob Neill and Stephen Hammond, who minutes earlier had been sacked by Chief Whip Julian Smith from his post as a Tory vice-chairman.
They took over the table by the enormous window. But this was no Champagne celebration, just modest glasses of the House of Commons sauvignon blanc. “It wouldn’t have been appropriate,” said one of those present.
A group of Government whips, meanwhile, headed for the much more raucous and bawdy All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group Christmas reception in the marquee on the House of Commons terrace. Drowning their sorrows perhaps?
“It’s no big deal,” one of these terrace tipplers claimed. Really?
Despite Government attempts to play down its significance, the defeat has left a bitter taste. And not from the likely pale ale being served to the revellers in the terrace marquee.
During the debate on day six of the committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, there was real rancour on the Tory benches as old battles were being re-fought between Eurosceptic and pro-EU Conservative MPs.
The Eurosceptics turned on Ken Clarke, the most pro-European of all pro-Europeans, calling him a federalist, an insult which he angrily denied.
Then the pro-Europeans turned on Bernard Jenkin as he did battle with some of the MPs who would later go into the Aye lobby with Labour, Lib Dem and Scottish and Welsh Nationalist MPs.
After Mr Jenkin told the rebels it was “not the moment to defeat the Government” with a European Council summit due the next day, Anna Soubry shouted at him: “From you! From you!”
Clearly, some old scores were being settled. Remember that Mr Jenkin, Iain Duncan Smith and Sir Bill Cash were prominent among the Maastricht rebels who were the scourge of John Major’s government in the 1990s.
Mr Grieve’s groovy gang were supported by the pro-European Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who had clearly been doing some research in the Commons library on past Tory rebellions by Eurosceptics.
Among the current Cabinet, David Davis had rebelled more than 90 times, he revealed. Liam Fox had defied his party 19 times, Penny Morduant five times and Andrea Leadsom seven times.
On the Tory backbenches, Mr Umunna said, John Redwood had voted against his party 73 times, John Baron 64 times, Mr Jenkin 95 times and Sir Bill more than 100 times.
After the vote, Nadine Dorries, who has voted against her party 47 times, said the rebels should be deselected and Mr Grieve stripped of his paid post as Intelligence and Security Committee chairman.
“None of these people can now lecture people who are seeking to do the right thing in the national interest on this amendment, none of them can lecture them about rebelling on this or any other matter,” said the Labour remainer.
During the voting, some old fashioned whipping was applied by the Government. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, was witnessed dragging new Tory MP Vicky Ford through the No lobby.
Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary who was Chief Whip until six weeks ago, was seen giving new Scottish Tory MP Paul Masterton a hard time on the green benches. Once a whip?
Earlier it was reported that whips had been accused of reducing a female MP to tears. A male whip was alleged to have used “bully boy tactics” that left the MP trembling and crying in the Commons.
But one reason the Government lost the vote was that they underestimated a sudden outbreak of unity on Brexit among Labour MPs. Only two Labour Eurosceptics, Kate Hoey and Frank Field, voted with the Government this time.
And here is a twist. The veteran Dennis Skinner, 85, and his pal Ronnie Campbell, 74, claim they swung the vote against the Government.
Both fierce Eurosceptics (“the Beast of Bolsover” still calls the EU “the Common Market”), they have until now voted with the Government on Brexit.
But this time the left-wing duo, who always sit together on the front row below the gangway in the Commons, decided during the debate to switch sides and support their own party, no doubt sensing that the vote was going to be close.
If they had voted the other way, the result – a margin of just four votes – would have been a tie and the chair would have voted for the status quo and against Mr Grieve’s amendment.
So the roar of the “Beast” was decisive. Although Mr Skinner would not be seen dead in the genteel surroundings of the Pugin Room. And definitely not with Tory MPs.