The humility missing from Theresa May’s arrogant victory speech the morning after the General Election was apparently finally present when she met MPs on Monday evening.
Hardly surprising, given the audience of the very people she had sidelined through an imperious, disastrous, seven-week campaign — one that ended in humiliation.
The Prime Minister says she will remain Tory leader for “as long as you want me”. Many of her MPs don’t want her now, but know they are stuck with her - for the moment at least.
Mrs May has one more duty to fulfil for the party she has failed so spectacularly. She must take all of the blame for the chaos still unfolding across Whitehall.
Downing Street somehow managed to announce a deal with the DUP to prop up the government, only for the DUP to say there was more talking to do. Now it’s unclear if the Queen’s Speech will go ahead as scheduled next Monday.
Even if it does, and leaving aside the difficulty of selling a deal with climate change deniers who oppose gay rights, it’s not remotely clear the Government will be able to get its programme through the Commons.
And exactly what programme will that be? The Tory manifesto is no help. Huge sections of it are doomed — curbs on pensioner benefits, expansion of grammar schools and the social care shake-up that apparently turned so many voters against the Prime Minister in the first place, all apparently to be ditched.
Meanwhile, Theresa May revives the Cabinet career of Michael Gove, less than a year after she sacked him — not the act of a listening Prime Minister but a desperately weak one, who can’t afford to have any powerful enemies lobbing grenades from the back benches.
Mr Gove will join the likes of Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd, loudly proclaiming loyalty until the very moment the Prime Minister departs.
And when will that be? It’s hard to see how this can go on beyond the summer recess. Mrs May’s credibility, shredded beyond recovery, will surely see her retreat within a couple of months.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean a speedy second General Election. The Tories are acutely aware of the extent to which they’re on the back foot right now. Last week, they lost 12 seats. Of the 40+ marginals targeted by the May campaign, only 5 fell to the Tories.
Meanwhile, while Labour gained 30 seats, in almost 30 more Tory majorities have dropped to less than 2,000 — in more than half it’s below 1,000.
Another election could see them fall, making Labour the largest party in Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn remains closer to government than anyone ever imagined possible, probably including the Labour leader.
Right now, Labour aim to sit tight, look responsible, and allow their opponents to carry on with the self-inflicted wounds.
Meanwhile, across the Channel, EU officials wonder if the Brexit negotiations will ever begin, and who on earth will be turning up for them…