THE day began with a shrill chorus of newspaper headlines.

“Desperate, deluded, doomed,” screeched one. “Another fine mess,” boomed another. And it was all down-hill from there.

Michael Gove, the ever loyal Secretary of State for the Environment, donned his metaphorical suit of armour to enter Radio 4’s Today studio.

He was battling the media dragon well until he was asked about the future of Theresa May’s reworked Withdrawal Agreement Bill[WAB]. In wake of the terrible backlash would it be published, as planned, in the first week of June?

"We will reflect over the course of the next few days on how people look at the proposition that has been put forward," he declared. The Scot seemed to be using Whitehallspeak to say No.

As the negative static continued MPs gathered in the Commons chamber for PMQs. The PM slipped almost unnoticed onto the green frontbenches. The usual Tory berserker roar was replaced with total silence.

Mrs May spoke only fleeting of her impending departure, telling MPs: "In time, another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box…”

It was left to the SNP’s Ian Blackford to cut through the muted atmosphere to tell the PM to her face that the new Brexit deal was a “fantasy” and “her time is up”.

Then came Mrs May’s statement on her new-look deal; It was noticeable how many empty green Government benches there were; some of the would-be contenders for the Conservative crown had failed to turn up; their absence a public sign of disaffection.

Once again the PM launched into another heartfelt defence of her bill, urging colleagues to recognise Brexit had shown politics was the art of compromise and they should follow her lead. But the faces of Tory MPs indicated they were not convinced.

She pleaded with colleagues that if they supported her plan, there would be sunlit uplands beyond Brexit and an end to the “increasingly bitter argument and division that have both polarised and paralysed our politics”.

But the Commons atmosphere of hostility did not break.

Jeremy Corbyn for Labour told the PM she no longer had authority and “her time has now run out”.

Mr Blackford said Mrs May had lost the confidence of her party, the support of Parliament and the trust of the people. “It is time to go”.

The ever-thinning Tory benches were more deflated than angry. Chief Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, in good Old Etonian language, asked: “In proposing this folderol, is she going through the motions or does she really believe in it?”

The PM snapped back, insisting she would not have taken the constant flak if she did not believe in what she was doing.

Outside the chamber, her spokesman briefed journalists, becoming the master of understatement. When asked if, in light of the backlash, the PM had any confidence in winning the WAB vote, he replied: “We have a job of work to do.”

Asked how the party was looking forward to the Euro-poll election results, he acknowledged they would be “very challenging”.

As the fevered atmosphere at Westminster continued, it emerged David Mundell had asked to see the PM. Few believed the Scottish Secretary, affectionately known as Fluffy, would be the man in the grey suit to yield the knife.

In fact, Mr Mundell wanted to impress upon his party leader that by facilitating a vote for a second referendum on EU membership, the legislation was undermining the party’s argument in Scotland against facilitating a vote for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Yet the Scottish Secretary was not the only Cabinet minister to want to air his grievance; so too did Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the Defence Secretary.

Yet Mrs May declined to meet them all. “The sofa is up against the door; she’s not leaving,” quipped Ian Duncan Smith, who had his own trials and tribulations as leader.

The nub of some of the ministers’ concerns was that what was agreed at Cabinet was to hold an indicative vote on a second referendum not to put the commitment into the bill, which would, of course, be legally binding.

But Downing St was adamant; the PM’s speech on WAB “represented the agreed way forward”.

By now, the Westminster rumour-mill was at full tilt with talk of exasperated Cabinet ministers preparing to face down the PM. Once this was known, ministers and MPs began to speak out.

One senior minister declared: “She has to go now. We are not sitting on Friday and that means another 10 days of this if she doesn’t.”

Then word ran round the Westminster Lobby that the PM was going to make a Downing St statement from behind the famous lectern.

One Labour backbencher described how she saw Tory MPs "actually running along corridors”. She added: "Big news expected."

But within minutes No 10 insiders were putting out this particular fire.

It was then suggested – in apparent confirmation of the PM’s imminent departure – that the WAB would not be published on Friday after all. But then, in true Thick of It-style, No 10 rushed out another response, insisting, yes, it would be.

Over in the oak-panelled Commons Committee corridor, members of the 18-strong 1922 Tory backbench committee were meeting to try to fast-track changes to party rules to oust their beleaguered leader.

One MP muttered: “She’s in a death spiral.”

After a glum-looking Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, hastily briefed the 1922, it met for just two minutes. “Such an anti-climax,” said one MP. “Nothing has happened.”

But Steve Baker, the leading Brexiteer emerged to say the 1922 Chairman Sir Graham Brady would meet Mrs May on Friday to “discuss matters of interest”. MPs apparently felt it was not wise to strike on the eve of a national poll.

But then late drama broke. Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom resigned over Brexit; the 33rd minister to do so.

The Brexiteer had been due today to announce the publication of the new-look WAB, containing the commitment on a vote on a second referendum, and explained she could not bring herself to do it given she was “fundamentally opposed” to it. Another massive blow to her ever-diminishing leader.

But the bruised and battered PM remains in place. For now. “The human limpet clings on,” quipped one MP. But not, everyone believes, for much longer.