Tory MPs listened to their leader in bleak, hopeless, embarrassed silence. Liz Truss could not cheer the very people on whom her immediate future depends.
How delighted they would have been if she had turned the tables on Sir Keir Starmer. How they would have enjoyed scoffing, jeering and laughing at this pious North London human rights lawyer who fancies he will soon be Prime Minister.
Sir Keir was good. His questions were short and witty. He made her look ludicrous.
If Truss were an accomplished parliamentarian, she might have added lustre to her name by attacking him for sounding frivolous on the great questions of the day.
One could imagine how Margaret Thatcher would have carried the fight to Labour, winning admiration even from her opponents for her fighting spirit.
All Truss could do was to soak up the punishment. She endured, but at no point did she throw off her inhibitions and inspire.
Her answers were brief, which might have been a good thing if she had known how to summon wit, fighting spirit and conviction.
But she instead sounded unacceptably half-hearted. She offered a half-hearted apology – “I am sorry and I have made mistakes” – followed by a half-hearted attempt to blame Sir Keir for the railway strikes.
Behind her, silence. Sir Desmond Swayne (Con, New Forest West) rested his chin in his hand. Damian Green (Con, Ashford) sat glum and motionless except for a nervous and jiggling foot.
This was a deathbed scene with the Prime Minister unable to think of famous last words, and the hundreds of onlookers behind her just wishing it could be over.
“Mr Speaker, I am a fighter, not a quitter,” the Prime Minister said, borrowing some words once spoken by Peter Mandelson.
Mandelson would have delivered the line with defiant brio, but from Truss it just sounded sad.
“We are facing very difficult times,” she said, as if describing her own predicament. “We are compassionate Conservatives,” she added.
Conservatives felt compassion for their hapless leader, but also longed for her and their sufferings to come to an end. The thought of watching Truss perform like this week after week is for Tory MPs unbearable.