Will Boris stay (for another wee while) or will he “In the name of God, go!” to paraphrase former Brexit minister David Davis at Prime Ministers’ Questions yesterday?

You need to check the news every 10 minutes to be certain the endgame hasn’t already begun.

But one thing’s clear. Whatever happens to the Pompous One, the nightmare on Downing Street will continue. Of course, it will be hugely satisfying to see Johnson out on his ear, escorted off the premises by descendants of the Grey Men who finally chummed Mrs Thatcher out the door. And judging by Johnson’s uncharacteristically hangdog expression after the “Get Boris” meeting by the 2019 intake of Tory MPs (don’t these folk have any gratitude to the man who got them there?), The Actual End might come as a humiliating but blessed relief.

As he described apologising to the Queen for the Downing Street party held night before her husband’s socially isolated funeral, Boris actually looked embarrassed – an emotion we doubted he could spell let alone experience.

The National Wales: File photo dated 17/04/21 of Queen Elizabeth II after taking her seat for the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. The Prime Minister's former director of communications James Slack has apologised

But clearly the current Tory leader is for the high jump. The only question is when the many parties within the Tory party come together and decide.

Sure, there will be some changes. The new man or woman at Number 10 will not be caught drinking on the premises ever, ever again, parties will be occasional with no suitcases permitted and top advisers will be extremely carefully chosen. Evidently, hell hath no fury like an unstable self-styled genius scorned as Dominic Cummings has amply demonstrated. So future applicants for top adviser roles will need to be more blindly faithful than ageing labradors and as devoid of ego and any desire for revenge as – well, no-one in party politics.

It’s a great irony that the Prime Minister who strode unscathed through so many more serious disasters looks set to be toppled by his own unshakeable belief in drinking and carousing as the noblest and most quintessentially English expression of liberty and human rights.

But actually, as ever, it’s the cover-up and lying that’s really done for him. If others come forward to back Dominic Cummings’ assertion that Johnson was warned before the law-breaking parties, he will be toast – whatever Sue Gray’s report concludes. Suspicion of lying has apparently prompted 20 more letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee from the highly disgruntled 2019 intake of MPs. Proof of lying will easily boost the current total to the 54 needed for a vote of no confidence amongst Tory MPs.

The National Wales: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss walks through ST James's Park, central London, after her comments that there is a "deal to be done" with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Following her first meeting with European Commission

All of which has kickstarted much talk about Johnson’s likely successors – Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss (I can hardly believe I’m writing this), Jeremy Hunt (again) and perhaps other, newer candidates.

Veteran commentator and former Tory Matthew Parris says the new Tory leader must be a gentler, quieter, more dependable character; an antidote to Johnson’s ebullient but untrustworthy personality.

But the “lucky” man or woman chosen as the next Tory party leader will need something else. A mission that captures the imagination of former Labour voters in Red Wall seats as “Getting Brexit Done” unaccountably did. That’s difficult because Brexit did get done, the country got hammered and Britain is now facing the Mother of all Multiple Crises. So, the new Tory mission is to fulfil the “dream of Brexit” and transform Britain into a northern version of Singapore – ripping up the democratic rule book and privatising what’s left of public services in England.

And all the leadership candidates are in on it. That means whoever takes over next week, next month or later this year, one thing is certain. They will be a cheerleader for the demolition of decency contained in the Nationality Bill, a supporter of the Stalinist state created by the new Police Bill, an advocate of First Past the Post for mayoral elections to stop Labour victories, an enthusiast for voter ID because it deters folk least likely to vote Conservative and a card-carrying fan of a broken “levelling up” process that gives affluent Tory towns more cash than hard-up Labour ones.

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He or she will also be swivel-eyed with excitement about extending the role of the private sector and will praise Sajid Javid’s latest crazy proposal for “academy-style” hospitals as a great way of getting American private health companies to tackle the NHS backlog.

S/he will also support tackling sky-high energy bills with massive bungs to the private energy companies – you know, the Big Six that once waded in mountains of ill-gotten cash through their quaintly named practice of misselling (or in plain language, stiffing unwary consumers by selling the highest possible tariffs). Yes, these total strangers to ethical trading – who also pocketed billions to provide insulation and smart meters but largely failed to deliver – will be trusted to pass lower prices on to consumers once the Tories give them hefty bungs (and they’ve taken their hefty cut).

And they won’t be going back to their old profit-seeking ways the minute a toothless regulator’s back is turned, honest. The “temporary price stabilisation mechanism” revealed by the Financial Times is a shockingly bad proposal, but it is being considered by the Cabinet. They are all in on it.

Ditto the plan to axe the BBC licence fee and force Channel 4 into the private sector. The Tories’ problem with the insightful, feisty Channel 4 News is obvious, but their grievance against the staid old BBC – described this week by Charles Moore as “the Fox News of the Left” – is weird. For Scots anyway.

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Yessers agree there is BBC bias, but not against the Tories. How could it be when every appointment in Number 10 seems to be a former BBC staffer and every key appointment in the BBC is a former director of communications of the Tory party? Yet even though the Tories have virtually colonised Aunty, they STILL think the corporation is breeding reds under the beds. The bid to turn the BBC into a subscription service like Netflix won’t answer the legitimate grievances Scots have about our public broadcaster but will end speech radio beyond LBC and Talk Radio, will end the World Service, will curtail news and analysis and will speed Britain’s transformation into an opinion-based, fact-free society.

Nothing better than the BBC will appear in its place under a new Tory prime minister, because the whole party (and the Daily Mail) are completely convinced that the BBC exists only to employ and propagate the political views of Islington Lefties.

All these lurches to the right – unremarkable to English ears, yet unthinkable to Scots – will continue under the next leader, to keep some semblance of direction and momentum. Even though they will polarise social and political attitudes on either side of the Border and further jeopardise the Union.

Truly, England is now departing at light speed from the settlement that’s kept the “United Kingdom” sort of muddling along these last 80 post-war years. The country that hatched, drove and backed Brexit is off on a new rightward journey of its own, and that will continue no matter who succeeds Boris Johnson and what half-baked plan Douglas Ross adopts to semi-distance the Scottish Conservatives.

The unmissable fact of Tory England’s ever-deepening political crisis presents a challenge to the Scottish electorate and a big opportunity for decency, social democracy and the cause of independence. So after a good belly laugh and a glass raised to the departing Boris Johnson, we must be ready to act and neither get transfixed nor distracted by the circus of Tory succession.

This article originally featured in our sister title, The National in Scotland. 

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