A resignation letter at 5.35 am is the worst sign of panic.
It's not enough to just send a resignation letter.
The party chairman. Boris Johnson was, at the moment, his only loyal friend.
Oliver Dowden manages five paragraphs. Not one endorses him.
He writes that "we cannot continue with business as usual" and "somebody has to take responsibility."
Before signing off, he said, "I will, like always, remain loyal ...","
Loyalty to Boris Johnson means being a backbencher and leaving his side.
To be clear, does Johnson have faith in him? A reporter can ask the most straightforward and direct question to a politician or their team.
It takes only a few seconds to type the letters YE, E, and S. His team is silent.
The cabinet holds the fate of an absent prime minister in their hands this morning.
Boris Johnson is thousands miles away in Rwanda, attending a Commonwealth summit.
He will be absent from the country for the week, as there are still summits in Germany and Spain.
He has been talking to cabinet ministers and made it clear that he does not intend to go back to London.
Some are now speaking privately after a wall of silence was erected by a number of high ranking ministers within an hour or so of Mr Dowden's letter.
Some are expressing disinterest about Mr Dowden. They suggest that he didn't want to be party chairman and was disappointed to have been removed from the position of culture secretary.
Others claim he could have been fired in a reshuffle within the next few weeks.
He could argue that he is honorable as a party chairman, but he has not been able to win by-election victories.
Other ministers are also very aware of the dire state the government is in and acknowledge privately how volatile it is.
Two things can be said:
Oliver Dowden's resignation transformed these by-election results, which were dominated previously by Conservative defeat to one that is now dominated solely by the prime minister's future.
These conversations would have been interesting, but Mr Dowden's decision has made it electrifying.
We can also state that Boris Johnson would only be forced out of territory if a large number of loyal MPs demand it or if senior cabinet ministers walk away.
His supporters believe that people who are old enough to make a difference in their communities are often those who would like the job. Therefore, moving now would seem opportunistic.
Many wondered if politics would quieten down after Boris Johnson won a huge majority in 2019.
It is not even a fraction of it.