AT least no-one can say they were not warned. As in the best cautionary tales, it was clear from the start that Boris Johnson’s premiership would result in a hot mess of bitterness, recrimination, and a large bill for the damages.

Where to begin? Oh, we could sit around this campfire telling tales of the Bullingdon days, posh boys out on the lash. Of the lies to his employers that saw him sacked, twice. Of the women, and the children. The nasty views, set out in black and white in his newspaper columns.

There were flat out, plain as the nose on your face warnings, be it from Eddie Mair (“You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?"), or Amber Rudd (“He’s the life and soul of the party, but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”).

Yet still his seemingly irresistible rise carried on, to the point where we are now, when a UK Prime Minister could soon be interviewed by police under caution about alleged parties in Downing Street, contrary to Covid rules at the time.

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The only premier to have come close to that position was Tony Blair during the cash for honours scandal of 2006. Even then, he was spoken to as a witness. Imagine being in a more shameful position than Tony Blair.

The man, and occasionally woman, maketh the office and so it proved at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday. What a sorry spectacle that turned out to be, with Mr Johnson dodging questions while his backbenchers cheered him on.

At one point he threw his support behind the idea of giving a medal to NHS workers and others to mark “all that we’ve been through” during the pandemic. Perhaps the gong for the party people of Downing Street will be engraved with the image of a glass of wine and a wedge of Stilton.

For any cautionary tale to succeed it is necessary to set out the how and why of when things began to go wrong. What has made the emperor, in this case Mr Johnson, think he can parade through the streets starkers, defying convention, political gravity and the feelings of so many for so long?

Now there is a tangled, sometimes embarrassing, tale. Perhaps we should start with class and society’s continuing tendency to be impressed by a certain accent, background, and levels of self-confidence.

Had Mr Johnson been working class, with that number of children, the dodgy employment record, the attitude to rules, he would have been an object of scorn. Frank from Shameless and Rab C from Govan, meet Boris from Westminster.

It is unbelievable that a person can still get away with spouting any old bilge as long as they do it in a plummy accent, or affect eccentricity. You cannot help but think that the jig would have been up for Mr Johnson earlier had he been quizzed by benefits officers rather than journalists.

Also helping Mr Johnson on his way is the toxic masculinity that still clings to politics, in this country and elsewhere. He thrives in a forum where bluster and bullying are prized over quieter consideration.

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For some reason he has managed throughout his life to attract women who will put up with his alpha maleness, indulge his arrogance, at least for a while. In this he brings to mind those lines from a (woman) teacher in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. “History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”

Wherever you see Mr Johnson there is a woman with a bucket not far behind. Sue Gray, Westminster’s answer to Jackie Weaver, and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, are the latest. Both have far better things they could be doing with their time and talents, but needs must when there's a Boris around.

Still, at least Scotland can hold its head high and say we were never fooled by this Prime Minister. We were the canary in the coalmine for Mr Johnson just as we were for Mrs Thatcher. Even his own party leader in Scotland has cut him loose. For all the good it has done. Regardless of how we voted or where we live, the electorate has to rely on Conservative MPs to show Mr Johnson the door. To be strictly accurate, they have to rely on one embittered ex-employee, let us call him the member for Barnard Castle, hitting the bullseye. For now, politics remains frozen in place.

That suits Mr Johnson, who is relying on the public having a similar attention span to his own. They’ll get bored after a while, says the cynical devil on his shoulder. Soon be holiday time. Give it a few months and something else will come along. Always remember, Al, that you are an election winner. In politics, that is the best stain remover there is.

No-one can be sure it will play out like that this time. Politics in this bolted together kingdom generally needs an earthquake to happen if things are to change, and you do wonder if there is an appetite for such upheaval after the last two years.

This is the point, though, when matters take a turn for the worrying. If people can look on such a Prime Minister with this amount of despair, yet nothing happens, they will become even more disillusioned with politics than millions already are.

It is not all about Mr Johnson’s personality or how he has conducted himself. People are generally tolerant. They forgive, forget, or don’t give two hoots in the first place. But there comes a time when the weight of evidence is such, and the bad behaviour so obvious and momentous, that to ignore it seems instinctively wrong.

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This is where many people now are with Mr Johnson and the Downing Street party culture over which he presided. That he does not seem to appreciate the hurt caused, and recognise that a price has to be paid beyond the sacking of a few underlings, shows beyond anything else that he is not fit for the job of Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson, typical of his entitled kind, has behaved throughout his life as though politics was just a game and the people affected by it mere spectators. All that mattered was the winning.

Yet every day he stays in his job, those spectators lose a little bit more faith. They start to turn away, until the point where there is hardly anyone left to care much. After that? We cannot say we were not warned.

This article originally appeared in our sister title, The Herald in Scotland. 

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