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To make his own decision about whether Britain should leave the EU, Boris Johnson drafted two different columns for the Daily Telegraph: one for, one against.

By this means, he hoped to find out which case was the better, perhaps taking his cue from Auden: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

I will be more economical, and put the case for and against the Prime Minister in a single article.  Since this is ConservativeHome, the conservative case – in the sense of hanging on to what we’ve got – will get the last word.

Against

Boris Johnson’s bizarre TV clip yesterday, in which he seemed to suggest that it was no business of his to know rules that his Government had itself applied, exemplified why he must go.

The Prime Minister may be the man you want to win a referendum, but he isn’t the one you need to run the country – because he’s incapable of properly running anything, including himself.

Making up a quote when on the Times, pyramids of piffle, Downing Street wallpaper, late declarations of interest, Afghan dogs, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, vaccine passports: you can’t rely on him to tell the truth or stick to his last.

As could be expected, he has not owned up to parties that took place to Number Ten.  Voters have consequently seen through him, and the odds of the Conservatives winning another election under him are long.

The easiest course to take when confronted by a problem is to do nothing – but for Tory MPs to take that course now, or hope that a Downing Street reshuffle will refocus and revive his government, is self-deceit.

He cannot and will not change, because chaos is the sea he swims in, the truth simply doesn’t interest him, and no-one can rely on him – as a long and winding cast from his private and public life can confirm.

If people can’t depend on him then neither can the country, which is why we are on our way to a high tax, high spending government with an unhittable net zero target, Covid chaos, rampant woke and “small boats”.

You don’t have to be anti-Brexit, blame him for Northern Ireland Protocol, claim that Johnson is Viktor Orban in disguise, or argue that he is nothing without Dominic Cummings to accept that all the above is true.

As for the Conservatives themselves, the longer they cling to him, hoping that something will turn up, the lower their reputation will plunge.

The damage risks being terminal for any new leader, let alone the next election, by the time that this May’s local elections take place.

By contrast, the lesson of the Coalition, UKIP, the Cameron majority, the EU vote, Theresa May, the Brexit Party and Johnson’s own win is: politicians and parties can swiftly reinvent themselves to win.

Those who supported Britain leaving the EU will always owe him a debt for his part in leading Britain out of it.  But the hard truth is that the trolley has served its purpose, and it’s time to wheel it off to the scrapyard.

For

A Prime Minister with a clear majority in Parliament, let alone one as large as Johnson’s, should resign only if one of his government’s main policies is unequivocally confounded – as in the case of Suez.

And a political party that dumps a proven election winner, who gained it a landslide victory for the first time in almost 40 years only two years ago, has lost its head and dooms its prospects.

Tory MPs shouldn’t play the game of the following: Cummings, Emmanuel Macron, Keir Starmer and the bloke in the kimono with the baseball bat, plus the blob of Remain losers, pious ex-Sir Humphreys and woke dons.

Once they let their boat be tossed about by the wind of a hysterical media culture, it will become a ship of ghosts, whose crew can’t get off WhatsApp groups or stop posting selfies for long enough to think straight.

It isn’t necessary to pretend that the Prime Minister is George Washington and so “cannot tell a lie”, or that Savonarola would give his private life a thumbs-up, to recognise Johnson’s unique strengths as a politican.

One, twice, and three times over he has proved himself an election-winner.  Indeed, he has never lost a poll of any significance – triumphing in London second time round at a hazardous moment in the political cycle.

Only Johnson could have turned the Conservatives around from nine per cent in a national election to win a landslide: his powers of rebound are awesome.  And remember: his culpability for partygate hasn’t been proved.

No sensible verdict about his Government can be reached after two years – let alone in the wake of a major pandemic.  But the vaccine triumph is a reminder of the heights he can scale.

MPs who send letters to Graham Brady are unlikely to have throught through the downside, which is shot through, if not with constitutional consequences, then at least with political ones.

What happens if Johnson loses a ballot, quits instantly, no acceptable caretaker can be found – and the party is riven by rows about how its next leader is to be elected, with attempts to cut out the members, court cases, the lot?

Above all: even if you think the Prime Minister should go before the next election, now is not the time.  None of his potential successors are as big a player as he is, or have his proven appeal to a slice of the working class.

And as for the turbulent events of the last decade, the real lesson is: don’t presume you know the future or can write off anyone.  Chuck out your leader and risk ending an era – paving the way, this time round, for Starmer.

So there you go.  The exercise may be helpful or it may not be, though there’s a difference between it and Johnson’s own back in 2016.

Then, a referendum was happening.  As I write, a vote of condidence in Johnson isn’t (though it could come as early as this evening).  Should Tory MPs force one?

Weighing all the above and so much more, one calculation may weigh with them.  That if a ballot is called and he survives him, he’s immune from formal challenge for twelve months.

And Dinah Glover may not be available this time round to speed matters up.  Shoot at the elephant and miss, and it may trample the jungle for a year.

A verdict can’t be delayed for much longer.  In the meantime, I promise you that, if Johnson is ousted, the cult of St Boris will flourish within a year.  Offerings will be burnt at his shrine.  Newspaper columnists will rend their clothes.

How we miss him!  His electoral reach!  His Sheer Bigness!  How lost the Party is with boring Sunak/Truss/Zahawi/Javid/Hunt/Gove/Tugendhat/Mordaunt/Baker/fill in here.  Bring back Boris!