Theresa May's nightmare speech

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Media captionTheresa May struggles with her cough

There has never been a speech quite like it. Even before she took to the platform Theresa May was fragile - politically, and in terms of her health, she has been struggling with a cold all week.

But the awkwardness of watching her cough her way through what was meant to be a fightback was intense.

Ovations were engineered by the cabinet to give her time to try to clear her throat.

The stage manager at the conference venue was continually handing her cough sweets to try to get through.

A prankster handing her a P45, interrupting her speech, ministers looking on in horror, trying to get him to leave before he was eventually bundled away in a huge media scrum, then handcuffed and surrounded by police.

At moments it felt like it would be impossible for the prime minister to carry on with the speech, but she made it, just.

But for how long can she continue in her job?

Her allies are proclaiming the ordeal as a demonstration of her best values - her resilience and determination to keep going.

No leader, though, wants the sympathy vote, they want to be respected, loved, and perhaps feared.

And remember most MPs already think it is impossible for her to lead the party into the next election.

Discussions have already been had about how and when she should go. There was a delicate consensus after the summer that she probably could stay in post until the Brexit negotiations were complete.

But that was based on the assumption that nothing major then went wrong.

Well, today might have been it. One senior MP tells me today's events may "accelerate those conversations", about her departure.

The conference was meant to be about restoring Theresa May's authority. It may prove instead to have been further undermined.

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