Boris Johnson is cold toast amid latest Westminster scandal

Bernard Ponsonby believes the Prime Minister's days are numbered following allegations against his deputy chief whip.

Bernard Ponsonby on the impact the Chris Pincher scandal will have on Boris Johnson Getty Images
Boris Johnson: Bernard Ponsonby believes the PMs days are numbered.

So far the view that Boris Johnson is a clapped out leader beyond repair has been the preserve of a growing number of backbench MPs. 

All have had their patience exhausted by different tipping points.

Captain Bungle was striding the world stage last week, a safe distance from Westminster where his knack of an embrace of the politically clumsy would, temporarily at least, escape his clutches. 

Or so we thought.

Allegations were made over the weekend that the Prime Minister’s deputy chief whip Chris Pincher had been involved in a drunken assault at a private members club, with the MP later resigning when details of groping emerged.

As a result, Captain Bungle launched Operation Save My Bacon.

The Prime Minister’s authority was all that mattered, not the content of the incidents or discharging any responsibility to those who had been on the receiving end of someone the PM had previously allegedly referred to as “handsy”.

When the story broke, every member of the Westminster village would have run the timeline through their head. He quits, he announces he will get help, he will be investigated, more allegations will emerge, his position as an MP will become untenable, he will resign his seat and there will be a by-election.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of these kinds of stories can predict the end game without any skills of foresight whatsoever.

They can equally predict that the one thing you don’t do is to try and derail the inevitable because you will end up looking clumsy and weak.

But Johnson had other ideas. He would embark on a strategy that would keep the MP in the Commons at all cost since yet another by-election loss could mean it’s curtains for him.

The predictable tsunami of questions were thrown. Did he not know of previous allegations against Pincher? Why was he appointed to the whip’s office when colleagues had raised concerns? Wasn’t Pincher’s “issue” not well known in Westminster?

Downing Street adopted the Corporal Jones mantra of “Don’t panic, don’t panic captain”, oblivious to the fact that the Sunday newspapers would carry a whole series of fresh allegations against the MP.

Poor Therese Coffey drew the short straw as the cabinet minister rostered to do the round of Sunday morning interviews where she would be the person who would speak for the PM.

She was the very picture of discomfort and must have been privately seething that she was being left to carry the can for the boss.

Other cabinet ministers would have looked on, embarrassed but thankful they were not left to defend the PM’s handling of the Pincher affair.

Johnson now has a problem. A big problem and perhaps a fatal one. The discontent has now spread from the backbenches to the cabinet itself.

Yes of course some of the cabinet know he is useless in the matter of joined up and competent government, but collective responsibility and a sense he might ride the latest furore has kept their chagrin in check – at least in a public sense.

The Daily Telegraph reports that three cabinet ministers are now dismayed by the current crisis, one that has yet again been self-inflicted and the fallout made much worse by Johnson’s lack of judgement.

It takes only one of their number to say that he should go and he will, for the dam will burst and he will be engulfed.

They will make calculations which will be dressed as being in the national interest even though we all know they will be driven by self-interest.

Of course the elections to the 1922 Committee may hasten a rule change and an immediate challenge to the Prime Minister who must be asking whether he can make it to the summer recess later this month.

The Prime Minister really is cold toast. He was in reality finished months ago and was toast then. All that needs to be done is for this mouldy premiership to be tossed in the bin.

On the subject of sex pest MPs, we learned yesterday that Patrick Grady, the MP for Glasgow North who sits as an independent, will not be the subject of a charge from the police about behaviour that formed a complaint to the Met.

He was of course elected for the SNP but at the moment is not part of the group. Given the widespread view that the Westminster culture is to protect “honourable” members at the expense of victims, I would be astonished if he is re-admitted to the SNP group and even more astonished if he stands at the next election.

The Pincher affair has taken the heat off Ian Blackford, the SNPs Westminster leader, since it is Boris Johnson who is now under the cosh.

But Blackford’s handling of the Grady affair means that it will be left to Labour to lead the charge against the Prime Minister this week. Another week when Captain Bungle has to save himself from himself.

For all that, his days are numbered. Deep down even Johnson knows how this will end.