Before the joy of last night’s football, came the sorrow of Rishi Sunak’s address to Tory MPs. The Conservative leader addressed the 1922 committee for the first time since calling the election which reduced his colleagues’ numbers by almost two-thirds. Instead of the usual oak-panelled confines of the committee’s favoured committee room 14, the night’s meeting was held in Portcullis House. Accompanied by interim party chairman Richard Fuller, the ex-premier appeared to pause and take a deep breath before heading in. Stony faces, muted cheers and the ritual banging of tables met him there, as Sunak prepared to take responsibility for his party’s worse election result in history.

The former Prime Minister began by apologising and accepting the mistakes which went wrong during the disastrous Conservative election campaign. He told MPs that he had personally called all the 175 colleagues who lost their seats to apologise – a move which went down well with some in the room. One attendee reflects that it was exactly the sort of kind gesture which had stopped Sunak from previously facing a vote of no confidence: ‘You can’t imagine Boris doing that.’ Another MP said that their leader’s speech was ‘dignified but deflated’ and suggested the atmosphere was more ‘one of sorrow than one of anger.’ While there is certainly plenty of anger within the party, little of it was directed towards Sunak’s face last night. Speaking afterwards, Bernard Jenkin remarked that it ‘wasn’t the blood-letting session’ that some had anticipated.

Perhaps more consequential than Sunak’s apology at the meeting was what Bob Blackman said thereafter. As the meeting broke up, the 1922 chairman, elected on Tuesday, told reporters that Sunak is ‘not going to be party leader by party conference’ – which begins at the end of September – but that MPs are ‘not rushing through this in July’. He also, importantly, added that whatever happens ‘members will have full say’ in the new leader. Sunak himself made clear last night that he is committed to an orderly transition, in accordance with his MPs’ wishes. There is currently no timetable for this but the hope is we will have further details next week.

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