By the time Boris Johnson set off for his regular morning run on Wednesday, he had already drafted a statement revealing he would vote against Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal later that afternoon.
The surprise move – many thought he would abstain – suggested the former prime minister was feeling bullish ahead of his make-or-break hearing on Partygate in front of the Commons Privileges Committee the same day.
But within hours, any endorphin-fuelled optimism he may have had will have dissipated, as the Prime Minister passed his Windsor Framework agreement with ease and Mr Johnson was left looking isolated following a tetchy and damaging committee appearance.
The brutal afternoon has left even former allies of Mr Johnson believing his political career may be “over”.
Senior Government figures seized on the fact that just a handful of Mr Johnson’s usual acolytes followed him through the voting lobbies on Brexit, with even Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams, who flanked the ex-PM at a recent speech in Westminster, staying away from the Commons.
While Liz Truss, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel joined Mr Johnson in the no lobby, just 22 Tories in total voted against the deal, with the rest of the list dominated by diehard veterans of the European Research Group (ERG) like Sir Bill Cash and Mark Francois.
One senior Government source said it showed Mr Johnson is “now with the wacky backy of the party”, his base evaporated.
A Cabinet minister who served under Mr Johnson was uninterested in discussing his former boss that night, saying simply: “We’ve moved on.”
They weren’t alone, with one MP who was formerly a staunch ally of Mr Johnson suggesting he now had no chance of a revival: “It’s over”.
The bleak assessment of Mr Johnson’s future political prospects were driven by both the Brexit vote and the Partygate hearing, with one ex-Cabinet minister who also served in his government saying “it was all over for him the second he sat down” at the Privileges Committee.
Swearing to tell the truth on a King James Bible, Mr Johnson endured a marathon four-hour grilling broken up only by the vote on the Brexit deal, and other divisions.
At times, the strain of the questioning appeared almost too much for the former prime minister to keep his cool.
Allies who worked with Mr Johnson in government said his tetchy demeanour at the committee suggested the appearance was “tougher than he had been expecting”.
“He generally has quite a jovial and calm demeanour even in times that are very pressing and stressful.
“You could see, he nearly lost his rag at one point, which is very rare.
“And it’s not like when he was prime minister and had a million-and-one other things to do. He was refreshed, this was his big thing and he’s had a lot of time to prepare, so that surprised me,” a former adviser said.
A Tory minister previously allied to Mr Johnson was less kind, describing his evidence as a “farce” and “theatre”.
“I think he genuinely feels he was right all the way through,” they said. “I don’t think he can see it, how serious it is. He can’t see it.
“He’s blind… A lot of that was down to him handling things pretty terribly and having the wrong people around him.”
In another sign that long-term supporters of Mr Johnson are drifting away from the ex-PM, some say they did not even watch his performance in front of the committee as MPs focused attention on the Brexit vote.
“The talk amongst those I spoke with was more about the Windsor Framework than anything else, especially in terms of who would vote against it,” an MP ally of Mr Johnson said.
Another MP who considered backing Mr Johnson for a second run at the leadership also said there was a sense that Mr Sunak had moved the party on.
“We’re in a different place now than we were last October. Boris wanted Brexit to be a success and so do we, and this [the Windsor Framework] is a chance to do it. [Under Rishi] people are talking about us winning the next election.”
Sources close to Mr Johnson, however, insist the mood in the camp was “very good” after his marathon session and that he felt he had got his points across and it had gone well, especially given the length of the session and the fact the room was “very hot”.
In response to claims by other MPs that support for Mr Johnson was drifting away, a source close to the ex-PM said he had had “many supportive messages from MPs” after his performance.
“Boris is supporting the Government and the party – we have always had that as our position,” the source said.
A Johnson-backing MP backed up the claims, saying “there’s a lot of support on various [WhatsApp] groups” as well as “vitriol” towards one of the committee’s chief inquisitors, Sir Bernard Jenkin.
“I understand he’s doing his job, but it’s widely seen that he’s making it all about Bernard and honestly he is not as clever as he thinks he is.”
Mr Johnson’s legal team is meanwhile preparing to make further representations to the Privileges Committee in writing over the issue of how the committee treated the evidence before it, including what they believe was their failure to publish key evidence in its published bundle, amid signs that the ex-PM is not going down without a fight.
Other allies also insist that Mr Johnson will not be cowed and believe the committee appearance “helped restore perspective and pedestrianise what was portrayed as sinister and dramatic” at the height of the Partygate scandal.
They say Mr Johnson “wishes the committee session had been held a year ago”, to show Partygate was less important than anaemic economic growth, high inflation, high tax, and the scaling back of the kind of infrastructure projects beloved by the ex-PM, including HS2, nuclear power stations and offshore wind.
Elsewhere, a former adviser insists Mr Johnson will not go quietly and has “options” whatever the committee decides, including fighting a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency if he is handed a 10-day suspension from Parliament and triggers a recall petition.
The former adviser believes this is more likely than either Mr Johnson retiring from frontline politics, or quitting his seat and doing a “chicken run” to a safe constituency nearby.
“I’d find it hard to imagine he just says that’s it, and goes off to America without putting up that fight,” they said.
On switching seats, the ex-adviser added: “I think he’d rather not do that but if he sees it as a way to fight on and live another day he might.”
Others warn there could be consequences for ending Mr Johnson’s career, and suggest his treatment by the committee was driven by anti-Brexit sentiment, despite prominent Leaver Sir Bernard playing a key role.
Charles Moore, Mr Johnson’s former editor at the Telegraph, says in an episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster, to be aired on Saturday: “What we’re seeing repeatedly, and of course Boris doesn’t make it easier for himself because he’s committed many errors, is people trying to squash what they see as the snake of Boris forever. And I think this is what they’re trying to do in this case.
“And I think it’s actually a bad idea from their point of view, because if he’s seen to be by many of his supporters as being persecuted and if it leads to him being kicked out of Parliament, I think it makes it more likely that they have trouble later.”
Tories elsewhere have been reflecting on a good week for Mr Sunak, who many are crediting with getting Brexit “done” with the Windsor Framework, and who is starting to slowly narrow Labour’s poll lead.
The Prime Minister was all smiles as Mr Johnson gave evidence to the committee, bowling out T20 cricket World Cup winner Chris Jordan in the Downing Street garden, as his predecessor struggled to defend against the hostile attack of the Privileges Committee.
Senior Tory MP Simon Hoare said the week has left Mr Sunak stronger both domestically and internationally, having “faced down the ERG, the DUP and Boris Johnson and one or two of his acolytes”.
“Subliminally, you see this gathered together, neat, all over the detail, confident and calm deliverer of politics in the form of Sunak, and the rather sort of chaotic and windswept approach that Johnson has, that reminds us how lucky we are to have Rishi Sunak,” Mr Hoare told i.
But Tory elections expert Lord Hayward says the return of the Johnson circus can only be bad for Mr Sunak.
“No prime minister wants a member of your party constantly distracting the media, the public at large,” he told i. “It muddies the water and it’s disadvantageous to have a member of your party constantly reminding people of what went before.
“Because when all’s said and done, what Rishi is trying to do is identify to everybody that this is a new government, a new style, a new mode of operation.
“The public do not vote for disunited parties and therefore, it may provide a counterpoint and identify how different Mr Sunak is, but they are still both from one party and one is a constant reminder of the other.”
Mr Sunak may also find himself on trickier ground next week, with the return to the Commons of his controversial legislation to crack down on Channel crossings, which has sparked potential rebellions from both the Tory right and moderates.
A senior minister, however, insists that, like with the Windsor Framework, the Prime Minister is adamant he will see it through.
“People think he is only doing this for the politics of it, but that is not right,” they said.
“He does not believe people should be coming into the country as they are. He really believes in this stuff.”