As autumns go, this was always going to be a tough one for the government.
A deadly virus preparing its second assault, a Brexit trade deal stuck in the mud and the usual predicted winter pressures of flu and flooding.
As one former minister put it over the summer: “There is no enthusiasm about going back to parliament from anyone.”
Three weeks into the new term, and while the boozing of the party conference season has been cancelled, the accompanying headaches persist.
An accelerating infection rate, creaking testing system and increasingly vicious Brexit negotiation has made for a bumpy fortnight for the prime minister.
On lockdown restrictions, Boris Johnson is this weekend splitting his time between Downing Street and Chequers as he decides whether to press ahead with beefed up social distancing measures intended as a “circuit break” to COVID-19.
It’s a fine balancing act between his scientists, his economists and his agitating backbenchers.
“The rule of six should to my mind already be regarded as a circuit break, to be reviewed for effect in about three weeks’ time,” said one Tory MP.
But with the threat of more restrictions dangling in the background, the outward-facing emphasis from government remains the use of local lockdown measures alongside that limit on groups gathering.
“We need to get the economy going again… but people need to act correctly or it won’t work,” noted a former minister.
Other backbenchers are concerned MPs haven’t been given enough scrutiny over coronavirus restrictions and are plotting a rebellion later in the month.
Paradoxically, Boris Johnson may get an easier audience with the opposition.
One senior Labour figure said the party would support a full second lockdown if the evidence pointed that way.
Labour are mindful of not wanting to undermine the current public health messaging when they don’t have the detailed data.
But the lawyerly Sir Keir Starmer also knows competency is his key attribute and – as the testing system begins to shudder under increasing demand – a weak spot for the government.
Thursday saw usually loyal Conservative MPs relay the frustrations faced by their constituents in getting COVID-19 tests.
Jason McCartney, re-elected to the seat of Colne Valley last year, said “entire families in my constituency are unable to go to work or school, as they sit at home repeatedly refreshing the testing portal to try to book a COVID test for family members with symptoms”.
Matt Hancock‘s promise to solve the problems “in weeks” failed to calm nerves, while testing boss Dido Harding’s apparent surprise at the size of demand sent eyebrows soaring around Westminster.
Some MPs now worry that – faced with a stumbling testing system – reaching for national lockdown restrictions has become something of a default for ministers.
If tumult over coronavirus wasn’t enough, Boris Johnson also managed to unite Michael Howard, Joe Biden and Amal Clooney in anger at his latest move in the Brexit negotiations.
A bill that would strip power from Brussels and hand it to Westminster, cutting across international law, provoked widespread outrage.
Look beyond the noise and there are more positive signs of progress in the trade talks.
Nevertheless, threats by the EU to walk away from the negotiating table over the Internal Market Bill remain in substance, if not in volume.
If Downing Street can claim any victory from the past fortnight, it is perhaps the extinguishing of a backbench rebellion over the bill with the offer of an amendment.
But even then, not everyone’s happy.
“We can live with it,” said one Brexiteer.
“Fed up with the same old gang sabotaging the government. Though the government does that quite well for itself.”