The Prime Minister did not seek “to mitigate or to absolve myself in any way”. He wished, however, to explain that to thank people for their services is “one of the essential duties of leadership”.
So he had raised a glass to thank departing staff. He also intends to say sorry to the cleaners and security staff who were not treated with due politeness during some of the Downing Street parties.
And “Sue welcomes, Sue Gray welcomes” – a rare lapse there as spoke of her with undue familiarity – the fact that “the entire senior management has changed”.
A burst of laughter, for he himself is still in office. But he assured the House that “we are humbled by the experience and we have learned our lesson”.
Odd, perhaps, for Boris Johnson, so gifted a comic actor, to have to play the part of penitent sinner, not that, as he lost few chances to contend, his sins were mortal ones.
Neither Gray, in her report, nor the Metropolitan Police, by serving him with a Fixed Penalty Notice for attending his own surprise birthday party, had managed to evict the Prime Minister from office.
And that was as it should be. Voters have the right to evict a serving PM, and so between elections does the Commons. The game was up for Theresa May, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher when their own MPs lost faith in them.
So the vital question was whether Conservative MPs have lost faith in Johnson. They haven’t. They are embarrassed by what went on, but with rare exceptions, of which Tobias Ellwood was today the most conspicuous, they do not wish to defenestrate him.
Their silence indicated a kind of slightly embarrassed acquiescence in what went on. It was regrettable, it ought not to have happened, but now, as the PM repeatedly said, is the time to move on and focus on other tasks.
The Tories drifted off to lunch. The Opposition went on fulminating, and sounded a bit over the top. According to Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda) No10 “has become a cesspit full of arrogant entitled narcissists”.
Sir Keir Starmer, replying to Johnson, sounded intolerably pharisaical as he declared: “I haven’t broken any rules.”
How can he say such things? He also said “the door of No10 is one of the great symbols of our democracy”.
That is wrong. The door stands for power, government, being at the centre of things: here, it says, is the house you occupy if you are running the show.
Sir Keir should have said the furniture van in Downing Street is the great symbol of our democracy: the Prime Minister having to move out within hours of defeat.
Where is the furniture van to bear off whichever of Lulu Lytle’s golden fittings can be prised at the last moment from the walls of the prime ministerial flat?
No sign of it today.