“The only person who can defeat Boris now, is Boris”. That remark, from a Tory MP, echoed by many commentators last week, says it all. A politician who couldn't be allowed loose in the television studios, in case he said something outrageous, is romping home in the Tory leadership.

Think about that. This really is an exceptional moment in politics. Everyone says that Boris Johnson is unreliable, untruthful, unfaithful, unruly and unpredictable. Yet, he is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister. How did we get here?

He's a chat show celebrity, of course. But it's not as if he's seen in a positive light by the media glitterati. Last week, Ian Hislop, the lead panellist on BBC's Have I Go News For You, on which Boris famously starred, called for him to be jailed. TV presenters loathe Johnson, which is why his minders have tightly controlled his TV studio exposure. He has been pilloried in the press, rubbished on social media and disowned by Tory cabinet ministers.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, made no secret of her dislike for the former London Mayor and even launched a campaign, “Operation Arse” to stop him. The Conservative Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, said he “wouldn't serve” in a Johnson cabinet (though he's now desperately trying to unsay this). But somehow all this bounces off the Teflon Blonde. In last week's first round of voting, Johnson won more that twice the votes of his nearest rival.

The short answer of course is Brexit, but that doesn't explain why Tory MPs are so keen to have this recklessly outspoken politician as their leader. The other candidates are no less Brexity than he is. Yet he is crushing the life out of them.

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Hard man Dominic “karate” Raab, is a dedicated No Dealer, yet he was left gasping on the canvas after last week's votes. The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, is still in the race, despite his cocaine confessions, but only just. Sajid Javid, has “also ran” written all over him, despite winning the support of Ruth Davidson.

This just leaves the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as the safety-first candidate. He'll probably win enough votes to come second to Johnson and be one of the two candidates offered to the wider Conservative Party membership. But he is so colourless - a male version of Theresa May - that he's most unlikely to succeed. Tories realise that this isn't the time for safety-first candidates. They've been there; done that.

Media commentators have been talking up the “White Walker”, Development Secretary, Rory Stewart, who squeaked into the second round. He certainly has a good back story, with his wanderings in Afghanistan, and possesses the effortless self-confidence that only an Eton education can provide. He's a youthful breath of fresh air, but Tories aren't interested in fresh air right now. They prefer the fug of populism.

Which leaves us with Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister. Even as I write that again I can still hardly believe it. Consider this testimonial by one of Johnson's former employers. “He is a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier figure than the public appreciates...I would not take Boris's word about whether it is Monday or Tuesday.. He is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect, save as a superlative exhibitionist.”

That was Johnson's former editor, Max Hastings, of the Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph (who nevertheless encouraged Johnson's mendacious stories about Brussels because it played well with the readership). In the same article, Hastings said that if Johnson ever became Prime Minister he'd be “on the first plane out of Britain”. I hope he's booked his tickets.

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Everyone knows that the former London Mayor was sacked as a journalist for lying, and then again as a junior minister for lack of candour. His infidelities are legion. He’s barely capable of appearing in public without provoking offence, usually from ethnic minorities. Three years ago he won £1000 from the Spectator magazine for a limerick that referred to the President of Turkey having sex with a goat.

You think I'm making that up, don't you? But the next PM really did write this about of President Recip Erdogan: “There was a young fellow from Ankara. Who was a terrific w@nkerer. Till he sowed his wild oats. With the help of a goat. But he didn't even stop to thankera”. Don't think he'll be reprising that when he meets the Turkish President.

The Tories used to be the sober, serious and sensible party. The political wing of the Anglican Church. It's in the name: “Conservative”. So what are they doing electing this man? Are Tory MPs so addled by Brexit they can't see what's coming? A Prime Minister as chaotic and unpredictable as Donald Trump.

In many ways, Boris Johnson seems the polar opposite of Trump. In terms of education, wit, literary ability and social background, he couldn't be more different to the belligerent billionaire. But they share one important characteristic: they are charismatic populists. They are rule breakers, who can be guaranteed to defy convention, for good or ill. They're not really politicians in the conventional sense, but anti-politicians, repositories of popular discontent.

Many voters like Boris because he is the embodiment of political incorrectness. He is guaranteed to provoke outrage from the professional offence-takers and social justice warriors who populate social media. Many middle Americans voted for Donald Trump, not because they expected him to be a model president, but because he would upset self-righteous scolds who tell people what to say and what to think. The woke guardians of the culture wars, who police the language of diversity, and condemn jokes about gays, women or racial minorities.

Boris is also someone who will make trouble, and many voters want to make trouble right now. That is why, paradoxically, the party of the establishment, is embracing someone whose demeanour seems so anti-establishment. Conservatives know that the only thing that matters is getting power and keeping it. Back in the day, this involved electing boring politicians in sensible suits who wouldn't frighten the middle classes and would invite deference from in the lower orders. Politicians behaved like bank managers, headmasters, churchmen.

But the middle classes have been plunged into insecurity by the financial crash, working people no longer defer to authority figures, and respect for religion has largely vanished from our secular public realm. In many ways, the passing of deference is a good thing. But we have also become an irritable and fractious society that doesn't know what it wants, but wants it now. Brexit is a touchstone issue here: a political project which no one really understands, because it is about complex trading law, but on which everyone has an emotionally-charged point of view.

Boris Johnson, is natural material for these emotive times. He is a performance artist, really, a living commentary on the state of society. A politician of shifting principle, who is not expected to honour his promises, and whose moral compass is his own ambition. So, prepare for a bumpy ride. The one thing Boris Johnson will never be is boring.