In the case of Operation Save Big Dog, euthanasia must surely be the kindest course of action open to the Conservatives.
Boris Johnson went into Prime Minister’s Questions knowing his opponents had been handed free hits. He tried to keep his guard up, aggressively shaking his head as Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer rained down punches from in front. But the knockout blow came from behind.
From the farthest reaches of the Tory backbenches, David Davis weaponised one of the most famous speeches in British parliamentary history. “You have sat there too long for all the good you have done,” the former Brexit minister implored. “In the name of God, go.”
When that line was uttered by Mr Amery in 1940, referencing a 17th-century Oliver Cromwell speech, it paved the way for the downfall of Neville Chamberlain’s Government and the ascension to power of Winston Churchill, one of Mr Johnson’s life-long heroes.
Mr Davis, of course, knew all this. What is more, he knew Mr Johnson did too.
With a ruthlessness befitting of a former SAS reservist, he took his seat, leaving his leader rattled, albeit still to summon some of his characteristic bluster.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about, and don’t know what quotation he’s alluded to,” insisted a flustered Mr Johnson, the author of a 432-page 2014 biography about Churchill.
On a day when even the Prime Minister knew he was on a hiding to nothing, the moment hurt. The question of what lasting damage it will inflict is one only Sir Graham Brady and the 1922 Committee can answer.
Make no mistake, for all the playground boisterousness from a minority on the Tory benches, there were awkward silences during PMQs. Those moments will have concentrated minds.
For the majority of the session, the usual pantomime prevailed. Sir Keir cut a relaxed figure, visibly enjoying the toing and froing – perhaps a little too much so. He chortled and giggled his way through his questions, reeling off one-liners with the fervour of a Butlins redcoat.
His best moments came when he stopped playing to the gallery, and threw some straight hooks in the form of perceptive questions around the 20 May, 2020 Downing Street party.
In the end, it mattered not, given Mr Johnson, playing political rope-a-dope, answered none of them. Instead, he resorted to a well-worn playlist outlining his Government’s track record, designed to be heard by his own MPs.
A master-class in prevarication, it referenced broadband provision, tax cuts, housebuilding, new hospitals, and youth unemployment. The Conservatives, he even said, had cut crime by 10 per cent, although it is unclear whether his own alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations were included in that figure.
It fell to the SNP’s Ian Blackford to articulate the prevailing public mood of anger and indignation. “The Prime Minister’s former chief advisor has said that he lied to Parliament, breaking the ministerial code – a resignation offence,” he stressed. “Public trust is hemorrhaging.”
Just then, the Commons cameras cut away to reveal Mr Johnson, slightly slumped, shaking his head and checking his watch. He is not alone in wondering how long he has left.