While David Cameron adopted a gracefully valedictory tone, and Jeremy Corbyn gave his usual impersonation of a not very articulate limpet, Sir Alan Duncan (Con, Rutland and Melton) set himself the altogether more ambitious task of cheering the House up.
And to general astonishment, he achieved this objective. For Sir Alan invited Mr Cameron, “from his experience as Prime Minister”, to tell us “how in terms of their countries’ reputation and success he would compare the undemonstrative competence and dignity of Angela Merkel with the theatrical and comical antics of Silvio Borisconi”.
There was laughter at this mocking reference to Boris Johnson, and at the implied comparison between him and the restrained and respectable Theresa May (who like Chancellor Merkel happens to be the daughter of a clergyman).
The Prime Minister said that fortunately neither of the people referred to by Sir Alan was “a candidate in the election” – understood to mean the Tory leadership election. But Mr Cameron added that on becoming PM, he had been given lots of advice, including “advice not to go to a party with Silvio Berlusconi”, which he had been happy to follow.
Can it be that we shall look back on Mr Cameron as a leader of unusual self-restraint, who managed on the whole to refrain from embarrassing us?
The PM sought instead to embarrass Mr Corbyn, by recalling the Leader of the Opposition’s claim to have “put his back” into the campaign to keep Britain in the EU: “I’d hate to see him when he’s not trying.”
But Mr Cameron then promoted Mr Corbyn’s chances of hanging on for a bit longer, by telling him: “For heaven’s sake, man, go.”
There were some inconclusive exchanges about the EU, but while the PM indicated his own preferences, he never wavered from his admirable acceptance that this will be a matter for his successor rather than for him.
If Mr Cameron remains as graceful as this – and it is a manner which comes naturally to him – there is no reason why, like Sir Alec Douglas-Home or A.J.Balfour, he should not serve as Foreign Secretary after an earlier period as PM.