Boris Johnson is a greater threat to the Union than the SNP - Euan McColm

What, I wonder, could Sue Gray say to get Boris Johnson out of the swamp of disgrace into which he continues to sink?

There must be something, surely? After all, the Prime Minister and the assorted over-promoted lickspittles who trotted out last week to defend him over a series of parties held in Downing Street while the nation abided by strict coronavirus lockdown rules are all adamant we should not judge until Gray - a senior civil servant - has completed an investigation into the matter.

Let us wait, goes their mantra, until we know the full facts of the matter.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to watch a man receive his Covid-19 booster jab as he makes a constituency visit to a Boots pharmacy on in Uxbridge. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty ImagesPrime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to watch a man receive his Covid-19 booster jab as he makes a constituency visit to a Boots pharmacy on in Uxbridge. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to watch a man receive his Covid-19 booster jab as he makes a constituency visit to a Boots pharmacy on in Uxbridge. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The problem for the Prime Minister is that we do know the full facts of the matter. We know - because we have seen the photographs and are not as stupid as Johnson seems to reckon we are - the Prime Minister partied with cronies in the Downing Street garden while the rest of would have faced arrest if we’d acted similarly.

We also know the Prime Minister has lied his way through this affair. We heard him deny knowledge of parties, then we heard him express shock and anger at learning a party had taken place, and then we saw photos of him at a party, and then we heard about lots more parties. As usual, the Prime Minister changed his story with all the enthusiasm of an 11-year-old boy holding an empty biscuit barrel.

If Sue Gray reports next week that the parties in question were not, in fact, parties and, therefore, did not break the law, voters will not - I’d bet - mutter a collective “that's alright, then”. Rather, if Gray’s investigation lets the PM off the hook, she should expect a furious backlash from voters now thoroughly sick of being taken for fools by Johnson. And if she correctly identifies the parties as parties, the PM’s pitiful defence - that he thought he was attending a "work event” - will crumble.

The Prime Minister’s only political friends, now, are second-raters who - without his patronage - would be languishing in political obscurity. No serious Prime Minister would find space in their cabinet for the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries.

Assorted TV appearances last week during which they tried to dismiss both the scandal and the Prime Minister’s critics merely allowed them to further demonstrate their inadequacies. Asked on the BBC’s Newsnight programme about a call from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross for Johnson to resign, Rees-Mogg dismissed his Caledonian colleague as a lightweight figure. Ross will have been delighted. Johnson, Rees-Mogg and other privileged posh-boy Tories do nothing for the party’s brand in Scotland. It will do Ross no harm at all to be seen to hold them in contempt.

With all Tory MSPs now backing Ross’s position, we’re looking at a remarkable situation where - should he cling on to power - the Prime Minister won’t be invited to address the Scottish Conservative conference. This, alone, should be enough for any Tory MP who believes in the Union to call time on Johnson’s premiership. Right now, the Prime Minister presents a greater threat to the maintenance of the UK than the SNP does.

Those Tory MPs who believe this crisis will soon blow over reveal a curious lack of empathy. It is not merely that the Prime Minister and people close to him blithely disregarded the rules to which we were all expected to adhere, it is that they did so even as people across these islands suffered the sting of bereavement.

Many voters are not simply angry about Johnson’s behaviour, they are also grieving. And for so long as those people mourn the premature loss of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children, they will be in no mood to forgive.

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Conservative MPs across the country will be spending this weekend taking soundings from local party members and considering the implications of the contents of their email inboxes.

Maybe they will find a revival of support for Boris Johnson but I think that vanishingly unlikely.

Last week, the Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen, once something of a Johnson cheerleader, became the fifth Tory MP to demand the Prime Minister’s resignation. Meanwhile, the committee of the Conservative Association of Sutton Coldfield - a safe Tory seat held by Andrew Mitchell - voted unanimously to withdraw their support from Johnson.

The ranks of the dissenters will grow, won’t it?

On Friday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the country it was time to move on to which the obvious reply would seem to be “but what about waiting for Sue Gray’s report?”

If Truss seriously believes this crisis is something from which the country is about move on, she’s a fool.

It is, of course, entirely possible that Tory MPs, for whatever perverse reason, will decide to continue to support Johnson in office.

Such a course would be risky, indeed. None of them can trust that Johnson won’t go on to generate even more damaging scandal. He has a gift for it, after all.

Boris Johnson has, for two decades, shown us all exactly who he is. We know he’s lazy, dishonest, and motivated entirely by personal ambition. We know - or we damned well should - that he’s entirely unfit for the office he holds.

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Every single one of us has had our lives changed by the pandemic. All of us have made sacrifices of some sort or other. Johnson, for all of his words of contrition (and you may have a view on the value of an apology dragged out of serial liar, trying to save his skin), acted as if the rules under which he’s instructed the nation to live simply didn't apply to him.

Regardless of what “facts” Sue Gray presents at the end of her investigation, it’s time for Boris Johnson to go. The Prime Minister has finally run out of road.

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