They knew they didn’t have a better replacement handy.

The simple fact is that keeping Theresa May as prime minister is now about as useful as putting a sticking plaster over a decapitation wound.

But that is what the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee has done.

Apparently Mrs May showed humility, recognised that there had been problems in the relationship between Downing Street and the party (a possible reference to Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who resigned as her co-chiefs of staff on Saturday), and accepted that her social care proposals had been a mistake – but the issue must still be addressed.

She said the Tories needed to move forward (isn’t that a slogan used by the DUP?) and listen to what the people are saying. There’s a first time for everything, one supposes, especially in Mrs May’s case.

In response, backbenchers are said to have engaged in desk-banging and cheering, in an attempt to outdo each other with displays of loyalty that the FT‘s Jim Pickard described as “pure pantomime of course”, and John Ashmore, chief reporter for politicshome, said a senior Tory described as “a sort of obscene spectacle of ambitious colleagues trying to outdo each other in fanatical loyalty.”

The simple fact is, they have no replacement lined up and no other options.

They know it is highly unlikely that Mrs May will be able to hold onto power, even with a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP – the terms of which will be rehashed every time Parliament votes on any legislation.

They probably expect her to fall if it becomes clear that she cannot get her proposed Queen’s Speech, outlining upcoming legislation, approved by Parliament.

But the other option is to relinquish power altogether, at once, and they’re not willing to do that.

They would rather go on, as a ‘zombie’ government, unable to get anything done but unwilling to give up and pass away.

They’re Tories.

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