It would be mad of the Conservative Party to choose this moment to pole-axe the Prime Minister. Every Tory leader can expect to be pole-axed in the end, but to be bounced by an alliance of brutes, scandal-mongers and prigs into dropping him now would be an act of insanity.

Sound Conservatives, who are in the majority, know this. But sound Conservatives feel little inclination to waste their days in fruitless contention with the Twitter mob, drunk as it is on a heady mixture of self-righteousness and blood lust.

And sound Conservatives are perturbed by some of the pictures which have recently emerged from Downing Street, which indicate that a year ago, some sort of Christmas celebrations were held there.

Just as there is never any hope of explaining a joke which has come out wrong, so there is no point trying to explain those pictures to anyone who has already taken offence.

Let us accept, for the sake of argument, that Downing Street was not run in this period with perfect decorum, and various rules instituted by the Government to limit the spread of Covid were almost certainly broken.

Let us further accept that some members of the public who struggled, at grievous cost to themselves and their families, to obey the rules, think the Prime Minister should take the blame for whatever lapses occurred and be sacked.

And let us as a general point agree that the role of any Prime Minister is to take the blame when things go wrong. Many, indeed, are remembered only for whichever disaster led to his or her being driven from office.

One can accept all this, and yet maintain that it would be ludicrous to sack Johnson, not because the American colonies have been lost, or the Norway campaign was a fiasco, or Britain has been humiliated at Suez, or the invasion of Iraq has gone wrong, but because the rules were broken during some Christmas parties.

People did not vote for Johnson, and give the Conservative Party its largest victory since 1987, because they imagined him to be a martinet who could be relied on to uphold the rules at Christmas parties.

They voted for him because he broke the rules. He wasn’t some prissy member of the Establishment who told the plebs “you can’t do that”.

Here was a man who could connect with people because he wasn’t telling them how to behave or what to think. Sober, solemn, well-remunerated corporatists, averse to risk and devoted to maintaining the present cosy arrangements, tend to talk down to the ignorant, ill-remunerated public.

Johnson doesn’t do that. He said it was fine to vote for Brexit even though The Financial Times and the CBI were against it. And he promised he would do something to level up the northern towns which Labour and the Conservatives had neglected for generations.

Two years is not long enough to judge how he is getting on with that. He brings to the task a Heseltinian brio and energy, the oratorical ability to make humdrum matters sound interesting, a pragmatic willingness to change course when circumstances change, and a team of talented figures whom he has appointed to key roles.

Will it all be enough? Like you, I do not know. I simply say it is too early to tell, and that the verdict on levelling up should be left to the voters at the next general election, with those in North Shropshire entitled if they wish to administer a painful kick next Thursday.

“Ah, but he can’t be trusted,” his critics cry. They fear he is now so untrusted, no one will pay the slightest attention when he announces measures to deal with the pandemic.

And yet, soon after he addressed the nation on Sunday evening, announcing that a booster vaccine will now be offered to everyone over the age of 18 before the New Year, the NHS website crashed, and long queues formed at vaccination centres, so eager were people to do as the Prime Minister urged them to do.

They found the case he made convincing, and hurried to play their part. So much for the idea that Johnson’s credibility is shot to pieces.

Here is a man who can reach and sway audiences in a way that a purely technocratic Prime Minister might struggle to do. It may be that in some future pandemic, when the occupant of Number 10 is a dull figure who fails to sustain interest over a long period, we shall wish we still had, as was the case in the good old days, a leader with Johnson’s superlative abilities as a communicator.

His critics, most of whom have loathed him since 23rd June 2016, are anxious to deny him any further opportunity to appeal to the British people.

They sense that their best chance is to condemn him on moral grounds, before he gets anywhere near another general election.

Johnson is immoral, they insist, because he failed to enforce the Covid rules among his own staff, and therefore he is no longer legitimate, and must be drummed out of politics.

Far be it from me to seek to undermine the sudden-death tradition in British politics. The removal van in Downing Street on the day after the general election is a wonderful thing.

Less wonderful is the humbug of the would-be assassins now advancing behind a screen of genuinely sorrowful members of the public.

Like the Puritans of old, these pious assassins assume that Christmas parties are sinful, and find the idea of anyone relaxing for a moment or two from the full rigour of the rules intolerable.

Have they themselves ever relaxed for a moment or two? Have they ever thought, even for one moment, that just now the rules were made to be broken?

“Ah,” they cry, “but we are not running the country.”

No, thank God, you are not running the country, but how you wish that you were, or at least that you could put in some poor sap whom you could browbeat with your moral lectures.

What you hate about Johnson is that you cannot run him. Here is a Prime Minister who will not be run. That is inconvenient, for it means he cannot preside over the immaculate, smoothly functioning administration which is so seldom found either in history or in the present day, but which you have somehow convinced yourselves is the highest good in politics.

Johnson is a free man, a liberator. That is what his critics cannot bear, so they have fastened on what they take to be his weakest point, the Christmas parties, as a means of throwing him out of office.

What a derisory pretext for trying to sack one of the most considerable figures of our time. No wonder sound Conservatives will have nothing to do with it.