In routine times one government by-election defeat, never mind two, would be enough to sustain political chatter in the media for several days.

Add to this the sheer size of the Conservative drubbings in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire, and commentators could have been knee-deep in speculation about another Conservative leadership challenge from now till the new year.

Yet a very different mood was evident on this week's Sunday politics shows. Given events in Israel and Gaza there seemed to be little appetite to talk about Westminster by-elections, though the presenters and guests still had to go through the motions.

When the main guests, Robert Jenrick, immigration minister, and Lisa Nandy, shadow international development minister, spoke about the Middle East they did so with the utmost care, keeping party politics out of the debate.

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During her interview on BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (Victoria Derbyshire standing in), Nandy said she was not going to sit in a studio in Salford and make “big pronouncements” about a complex and fast-moving situation.

But at the same time, questions had to be asked. This led to heated exchanges, particularly on the BBC1 show.

First, the business close to home. Not the floods – they were covered in the TV part of BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show - but those by-elections.

Jenrick delivered the usual response about governments never doing well in midterm by-elections.

Asked by Derbyshire if he was in denial about the losses, the minister said the party had to listen to what voters were saying in by-elections, but at the same time not read too much into them.

“My sense is that the public are undecided. They’re certainly not sold on Keir Starmer. Conservative voters want a good reason to come out and vote for us,” he said.

It was a measure of the times that the MP for Newark was asked if he was worried about his seat, where he had a majority of “only” 21,816.

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“Any member of parliament would be foolish to be complacent,” he replied.

Derbyshire's interviews with Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, and Naftali Bennett, the former prime minister of Israel, summed up the difficulties broadcasters are having in dealing with this story in a way that is seen to be fair by different sides.

Dr Ashrawi complained that not enough attention was being given to Palestinian suffering; Mr Bennett said the same about Israel’s. He accused the corporation of “lacking moral clarity” in its reporting.

The BBC has come under pressure from Conservative MPs and sections of the press for calling Hamas “militants” rather than terrorists. In the past few days BBC presenters have changed their phrasing and now describe Hamas as “a proscribed terrorist organisation by the UK Government and others”.

The corporation was also criticised after one of its reporters speculated about who was responsible for the bombing of a hospital in Gaza City.

These matters look set to be raised when the BBC director general, Tim Davie, addresses the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers in the Commons on Wednesday. The invitation was sent out in the summer.

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Some hints as to what Mr Davie might say were provided by Greg Dyke, a former BBC director general, who was a guest on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.

Dyke said the current criticism of the corporation was nothing new.

“At times of crisis, the BBC always gets attacked by both sides, always. Go back to the Falklands. I seem to remember Mrs Thatcher attacked the BBC for not saying… ‘our boys’ as opposed to British troops. I think (the message) for the BBC (is)… ‘Don’t lose your nerve, keep trying.”

There is no doubt, he added, that mistakes will be made given the “incredible rate” at which the story was developing. Editors had to stay vigilant. “You’d be looking all the time for ‘did we make a mistake? Can we make that clear?”

There is something else in the diary this Wednesday besides Mr Davies’ meeting the 1922. On October 25 it will be a year since Rishi Sunak took office as prime minister. It is another subject, like the by-election defeats, that one might expect to be picked over in detail by the media. Given it is a Wednesday it also looks certain to come up at PMQs.

Whether it does depends on what is happening in Israel and Gaza. Opposition parties will be wary of being seen to attack the Prime Minister at a time of heightened international tension, just as the Sunday shows were keen not to focus too much on British by-elections. There will be a return to party political business as usual, at Holyrood and Westminster, but not yet.