SHE came, she coughed, she failed to conquer the doubters. Between Kermit taking up residence in her throat, some muppet handing her a P45, and the backdrop falling apart, the only thing missing from the carnage that was Theresa May’s speech to her party conference yesterday was Sir David Attenborough providing the commentary.

Just as it was impossible to look away, so it is hard to see how the Prime Minister can come back easily from this.

On a purely human level it would be an odd person who did not feel sympathy for Mrs May as she struggled to get to the end of what was a 65-minute speech but must have felt to her like six hours. Those who enjoyed seeing a person in such obvious distress, and there are always some, really should get out more and mingle with the human race.

For distress is what it looked like, the physical manifestation of the growing pressure Mrs May has been under since June. Her supporters will deny this was the case, and put her persistent hoarseness and coughing down to giving so many interviews the day before. Yet for several months now the Prime Minister has looked increasingly fraught, and no wonder. With friends like the ones she has in Cabinet, the official opposition need barely lift a finger.

None of this, however, can take away from the fact that Mrs May is in large part responsible for the sorry state she finds herself in. She decided to call the snap General Election that lost her a majority; she was determined to stand for the leadership of her party after David Cameron’s equally calamitous bid to keep his warring party together by holding an EU referendum; and it was her determination to stay on, despite her failures, that brought her to the podium in Manchester.

She acknowledged her culpability for the election result by beginning her speech with an apology. The campaign was too scripted, too presidential, she said. “I hold my hands up. I take responsibility. I led the campaign and I am sorry.”

But she has known all this for months now. By taking all this time to say sorry in public it looked as though an apology had been dragged out of her.

Even if one sets aside the obvious disasters, was this a speech that merited Mrs May’s staying on in the job? Hardly. The promise to cap energy prices was a reheat. She sought to calm nerves on the increasingly messy Brexit negotiations, looking forward to the UK enjoying a “deep and special”– this month’s strong and stable – partnership with the EU. As for the rest, including the attacks on Labour, praise for the NHS, the promise to help those who felt excluded, to build more houses, it came across as soggy-bottomed, bake your own leader’s speech stuff.

Getting round to Scotland, she took her cue from Jeremy Corbyn and adopted a less is more approach. Winning 12 more seats surely merited more than a few sentences, particularly when there was so little else to point to by way of electoral achievements. Finally, mercifully, she got to the closing section, and in a much trailed quote, told her party to shape up. Rarely has a phrase been such a hostage to fortune as that one.

Until the speech (or, as it will now be known, “that” speech) the Tory conference had hopes of being one big motivational session. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, had shown the way, urging delegates to “man up” and not allow Mr Corbyn to rattle them.

Here was a message aimed at the Tory head, heart and backbone. One should never underestimate the Conservative sense of entitlement when it comes to governing. A party does not survive for nearly 200 years by slinking off when the time is right to give someone else a go. With every fibre of its being this party wants to stay in office. The trouble is, even before “that” speech, it increasingly did not fancy its chances of doing so under Mrs May. As far as a large part of her party were concerned, she was the asteroid heading towards them, not their guiding star.

As such, Manchester was always set to be the latest in a series of interview rounds to find her replacement.

Even before the conference, many commentators and party members had admired the cut of Ms Davidson’s jib. Her performance in Manchester has turned mild adoration into a major crush, with one writer, Daniel Finkelstein of the Times, a former adviser to several party leaders, praising her for being “tough, fresh, original” and putting in an “amazing” performance in Scotland.

He is so keen, indeed, on Ms Davidson becoming leader he has suggested changing the party’s rules to get round little local difficulty that she is not a member of the UK parliament.

Under this Baldrickian cunning plan, the party leadership contest would be delayed till after the Holyrood elections in 2021, allowing Ms Davidson to finish the job she started on the SNP majority.

With the rule book having been rewritten, she would then pop down to Westminster and take over before Mrs May leaves Downing Street in 2022, the (planned) date of the next General Election.

What a very Tory, tickety-boo coup that would be. One can imagine the SNP having much fun with this notion of Ms Davidson not as the king across the water but the queen on the BA shuttle. How long must her people down south wait till she sets them free?

After yesterday, the already strong thesis that anything can happen in politics these days has been bolstered even further, so it would be a brave person indeed who war-gamed how the Tory leadership race will pan out from here. That there will be a race, however, looks more likely today than it did at the start of the week.

As for Mrs May, it comes down to this. In politics, as in life, anyone can be unlucky. But when misfortune is capped by error and compounded by misjudgement, when you just plain come across as jinxed, it is time to take a hard look at the present and realise that the problem is not them any more, even if they are an absolute parcel of plotting rogues, but you.