By the time this is published, anything here could be overtaken by events. But many are already wondering if this really is the end for the Prime Minister. Including some who were once his most loyal supporters.
Let’s look at the case against him. By announcing Plan B on Wednesday, seemingly without consulting the majority of his Cabinet, Johnson has alienated the hard right of his party to the extent that a large number say they will vote against it.
The necessary legislation will be carried – as I write, Labour has said it will, quite rightly, be supporting it. Anything else really would be playing party politics at the expense of public health. Johnson has, though, upset a large chunk of his power base. They were already turning against him (£) for his high spending policies, which many felt to be an affront to true Conservative values.
Second, I see, and am inclined to believe, comments from her former colleagues that Allegra Stratton will not turn on Johnson and tell all she knows. That is not her nature, they say. She will instead, I suspect, be found another well-paid job within the Blob, that nexus where the Tory Party, hard line free market thinktanks, rich Tory donors and the right wing press all intersect.
But if the inquiry finds that 40 or 50 Downing Street apparatchiks did break the rules at That Party, some will have to be sacrificed, just as Stratton was. It is a certainty that anyone at That Party or others will have spent the last few days collecting whatever evidence they can of what really happened.
Someone at a high level will have had to authorise the lavish spending on food and drinks, for example. Somewhere that document exists. Apart from anything else, this and other evidence would be useful at any industrial tribunal, should any or all of those sacked Number Ten staff choose to go to one.
With electronic communications such as emails or WhatsApp in widespread use, such evidence is very hard to destroy. They could all be paid off and required to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), preventing them from later telling the truth. But it is doubtful, legally, if NDAs can be used to prevent disclosure of criminal activity.
‘Sleaze tsar’ may quit
Third, Lord Geidt, brought in by Johnson as the Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests or “sleaze tsar”, as the tabloids would have it – is reportedly about to quit having concluded that Johnson lied to him over Wallpapergate. If he goes, this would be the perfect end to a perfect week for Number Ten. Not.
And we have no idea what further revelations will appear in the Sunday newspapers…
Fourth, hanging over all this is the North Shropshire byelection, now only days away, with some bookies forecasting a defeat for the Tories.
If the LibDems upturn one of the safest Conservative majorities in the country, the men in suits might pay Johnson a visit. The new breed of “red wall” Tories are already worried about their jobs, and rightly so. They were conspicuous in their outrage over the Owen Paterson debacle.
I am not saying any of the above would spell the end for Johnson. Or even all of them, given his limpet-like ability to cling to power when any other politician would have been washed away.
Boris Johnson, the quitter
But look at his character. Johnson is a quitter. In his private life, undeniably. His career has shown a similar pattern. As President of the Oxford Union, as Mayor of London, as MP for Henley-on-Thames, he has shown a propensity to strive for high office and then, once this is achieved, lose interest.
I suspect he may shortly reach a stage of thinking everyone is against me. Why should I bother? (Even The Telegraph, which largely created him after my former employer fired him for dishonesty, has turned on him(£).The suggestion that Geidt was about to quit also first appeared there.)
He has a new daughter to think of. He could make huge amounts of money from ill-researched books – have a look at this, which includes the howler in his book on Churchill where he claims the Germans captured Stalingrad – or from shambolic after dinner speeches.
It is fairly obvious that Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are preparing for life after Johnson. If he goes, the queue of political pundits lining up to write the definitive guide to the Johnson years would stretch several times around Parliament Square. And once he is no longer being shielded by the rightwing press, their conclusions will be devastating.