There was little time for Mr Johnson to worry about what his rivals were up to though. After a 15-minute phone call with Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Mr Johnson was dismayed when Mr Ross publicly called on him to quit, saying: “I don’t think he can continue as leader.” His predecessor Baroness Davidson soon said the same, along with two thirds of Conservative members of the Scottish Parliament, former minister Caroline Nokes, and Sir Roger Gale, who said Mr Johnson was “a dead man walking”.
Senior Conservative sources have told the Telegraph that the executive of the 1922 Committee had discussed sending a delegation to ram home the strength of feeling to the Prime Minister, before deciding that “colleagues weren’t quite there yet”.
Instead William Wragg, the vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, took matters into his own hands by saying Mr Johnson should go because his MPs were “worn out defending the indefensible”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, retorted that Mr Ross was a “lightweight”.
Still the bad news kept coming. Friday’s Telegraph broke the news that two separate leaving parties had taken place into the early hours at Downing St on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, when the Queen was so memorably forced to sit in isolation because of harsh Covid rules. One of them was for James Slack, the Prime Minister’s outgoing director of communications. Hours later No 10 had sent an official apology to the Queen and said it was “deeply regrettable” the parties had happened at a time of national mourning.
In the same newspaper Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, revealed that he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, saying Mr Johnson should “go now with some semblance of grace”.
As the parliamentary week came to an end, Peter Bone, the Tory MP for Wellingborough, returned to his constituency to find the word LIAR spray-painted on his office window. Other MPs were bombarded with emails.
“I had about 250 emails and 95 per cent of them were negative,” said one. Another said: “My local Conservative council is planning for the May elections, and they have said they don’t want Boris Johnson anywhere near the campaign material. He has gone from our biggest electoral asset to our biggest liability.
“There are still some Tory MPs who believe Boris can turn it round, but if we get hammered in the local elections that’s when it will become impossible for him to stay.”
A YouGov poll on Friday put the Tories 11 points behind Labour, the biggest gap of Mr Johnson’s premiership.
Mr Johnson, who had told friends he wants to stay in the newly-wallpapered Downing Street for 10 years, is now odds-on with some bookies to last less time than Theresa May, the woman he helped depose. To avoid that fate, he would have to survive until at least August 4, but by next week there might not be many Tory MPs willing to take that bet.