Is it opportunity or disaster for the prime minister?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

  • Published
Boris Johnson leavingImage source, PA
Image caption,
Boris Johnson leaving the foreign secretary's official residence at Carlton Gardens in central London

Where was the joker, the great cajoler, the political entertainer?

For Boris Johnson, there was nothing funny about David Davis' resignation forcing him into an agonising choice.

Stay in his job as he had intended to do and "polish the turd" - as he apparently so delicately put it - from inside government and risk ferocious criticism from the Brexiteers he used to delight?

Or walk away - into quite what it is not clear - when his political stock is at a low after his controversial time as foreign secretary.

From watching the images of him leave his official residence for the last time, where he'd been holed up all day, he wore it heavily.

No bellowed "hello" for the patient snappers.

Leaving alongside his wife Marina Wheeler he looked not just a bit dishevelled, which is not exactly unusual, but pretty battered by events.

It is not clear at all from his friends what his plan is next, or if he even has one.

This time he has resigned, but when weighing up his options might think of his own words when he was booted out by Michael Howard years ago - "My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters."

More importantly, is the prime minister looking at opportunity, or disaster?

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Boris Johnson told the PM she was suffocating Brexit "dream" in his resignation letter

There are two entirely plausible scenarios.

First, talk to the inner core of Brexiteers and the departures reveal the hollow betrayal of the prime minster's EU policy.

There is simply no way that her policy is allowed to stand. And if she doesn't junk it, well, they will simply force her to.

If she resists, they'll take her out rather than follow along.

One Brexiteer MP tonight told me they have the numbers to make life impossible.

Don't focus just on the idea of a no confidence vote. As things stand she would probably win one of them.

But if Brexiteers start voting against government measures in the Commons on a regular basis they can simply block everything the PM tries to do which could, in time, force her out.

They still have the numbers to do it. Maybe.

Here's the second possible version of events.

While Monday's fiasco certainly looks to the outside world that the Tories are losing the plot, Theresa May has ended the day with a cabinet that is more loyal to her.

A Parliamentary party where the majority want her Brexit compromise to succeed.

Two of the colleagues who required a lot of time and effort are out of her way, while other Breixteers bound into her project having not resigned today.

And former Remain rebels who had been causing huge amounts of trouble are mollified because, finally, after months of their urging, she has picked a side, and it is theirs.

So, she ends a brutal day having scraped some of the barnacles off the boat, more able to forge ahead. Hmmm.

Utter meltdown?

Crucial to both those scenarios is how the EU responds to her compromise.

If the EU starts being more flexible, Theresa May could start to earn back some authority.

If they reject her compromise quick smart, what is the point of her colleagues defending her if there is no strategy left to defend?

And the next steps of the departing duo matter too. Become friendly critics or the voices for simmering anger that's all around?

We don't know yet and their decisions will matter too.

So, in a terrible act of fence sitting, I will gladly write that it is possible that the government moved a step closer to total and utter meltdown and another general election.

But it is also feasible that the mainstream majority in the Tory Party just found a stronger stride.

For Theresa May, another day in power awaits, but she is not in complete control.