DID Theresa May allow herself to hope, just for one moment during a long, sunny weekend in which the national mood was at peak positivity, that her Cabinet’s pledge of collective responsibility would hold?

Did she dare to dream that the impossible would happen and an underrated team split by tactical differences would stick together to reach a long overdue goal?

A bit like following England’s footballers in recent years, it’s the hope that kills you.

The brief delusion that finally, a way forward had been found, came to a crashing end late on Sunday night with David Davis’s resignation, followed yesterday by that of Boris Johnson. As the now ex-Foreign Secretary said in his savage letter of resignation, the dream is dying. His might be breathing its last, but Mrs May’s is already cold in the ground.

Instead of being congratulated on bringing together one of the most quarrelsome, difficult Cabinets ever, Mrs May was last night facing the very real prospect of a leadership contest – a contest she has already vowed to fight.

Whatever anyone thinks of her politics, her tenacity in the face of repeated knock backs is remarkable. Is there anyone else within her party – or on the Opposition benches – who would take such punishment and keep on coming back for more?

It would take a leader with unprecedented powers of persuasion and diplomacy to keep together a party – and country – so divided on Brexit. Mrs May probably isn’t that leader, but is there anyone out there who is?