No tears. No catch in the throat or quiver in the voice. As she read out her withdrawal statement on Monday, surrounded by the few diehard loyalists who chose to be with her at the end, Andrea Leadsom sounded sensible, calm and composed. Someone, in fact, who knows what's what.

Which leads me to ask the obvious question: what on earth could have possessed such a seemingly sensible politician to imagine for one moment that she had the stomach or the stamina to take over the premiership at such a critical time for the country?

Yes, she's had a rough time in the last few days. The way she apparently bigged up her CV was an absolute gift to the Tory grandees backing Theresa May. So of course they used it to suggest that her career in the City amounted to little more than answering the telephone and making tea for her male bosses. Just take a memo would you Andrea...

That was bad enough. But her disastrous interview with the Times at the weekend made matters much, much worse. During the referendum campaign, Leadsom frequently spoke of her experience as a mother and future grandmother. But her clumsy remarks in the Times – which seemed to suggest that because of those family experiences she'd make a better prime minister than the childless May – made matters infinitely worse.

This is the Tory Party, remember – the 'nasty party', as Theresa May once so memorably described it. And boy, did those nasty instincts come to the fore now. Supporters of May could hardly believe their luck. This was their chance to put the boot in, with a series of statements denouncing poor old Andrea as the Cruella de Ville of Westminster. According to Alan Duncan, the MP for Rutland and Melton, her behaviour was 'vile'.

And that's just a taste of the abuse heaped on this rather amiable woman in the past few days. She's been described as inexperienced, useless, a tax-dodger, 'loathsome Leadsom' a 'ghastly woman', Britain's answer to Sarah Palin and even as a religious maniac.

Theresa May
Britain's Home Secretary, Theresa May, delivers a speech at RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) in LondonDylan Martinez/ Reuters

And where does all this obloquy originate? It's hard to disagree with one of her key supporters, former party leader Iain Duncan Smith that she is the victim of a 'black ops' campaign conducted by the Tory establishment to ensure a trouble-free coronation for Theresa May.

Well, to a large extent Andrea Leadsom is the author of her own misfortune. She does seem to have exaggerated her City career. She did speak clumsily about the advantages of motherhood. And she is inexperienced. But then, politics is a rough old trade. Once she put herself up as a potential leader she should have expected such attacks. They come with the territory. And anyone with real leadership potential would have fought back.

After all, thousands of ordinary party members – the people who would have decided the outcome of the contest – agree wholeheartedly with her Christian and family values. Thousands of them admire the way she fought the Leave side in the referendum campaign, in contrast with Theresa May, who skulked on the sidelines.

It's hard to disagree with one of her key supporters, former party leader Iain Duncan Smith that she is the victim of a 'black ops' campaign conducted by the Tory establishment to ensure a trouble-free coronation for Theresa May.

As for her inexperience, so what? Tony Blair had never held down even the most junior of ministerial jobs before he made it to No 10. David Cameron had no real Whitehall experience either. Had Leadsom chosen to make a fight of it she might conceivably have won. As it is, she'll be remembered – if at all – as just another also-ran.

And Theresa May? The great majority of Tory MPs think she'll make an excellent prime minister. If she succeeds in negotiating a successful exit from the EU, establishing economic stability and creating a fairer society, they'll be proved right.

But if things go awry, as in politics they so often do? Then a restive membership in the Tory shires may feel they've been let down yet again by a party establishment that holds them in contempt.

The grass roots have already shown their strength by defying David Cameron's advice and voting overwhelmingly to leave the EU. They've seen how the party's upper echelons have crushed the Leadsom challenge.

And, if Theresa May doesn't now deliver what they want, she may discover just how nasty disappointed Tories can be.