IT would be easy to review the latest episode of the low-rent Westminster soap opera by mocking the clownish antics of Boris Johnson and his ghastly trapeze show.

We could enjoy the spectacle of the Prime Minister losing control of the parliamentary agenda, giggle at his excruciating speech in Wakefield, and roll our eyes at his “girly” dig at David Cameron.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the prospect of Johnson asking the EU for another extension to Brexit, just as it would require a Herculean effort not to guffaw at the possibility of Johnson being the shortest-serving Prime Minister in nearly 200 years.

However, Johnson’s behaviour since succeeding Theresa May has profound consequences far beyond his own limited career prospects.

His own tribe, the Conservative and Unionist Party, is now missing a "U". The Tories, obsessed with outflanking Nigel Farage and shoring up the Leave vote, have ditched unionism for English nationalism. Their priority is Brexit, regardless of the ripple effect on the UK.

Everything that led to the Tory party dominating 20th century British politics – pragmatism, adapting to changing times – has been jettisoned. Johnson leads a single-issue party and nothing is more important than leaving the European Union at any cost.

The game-changer was that astonishing summer YouGov poll of Tory members. Asked whether they would rather stop Brexit if it would lead to Scotland becoming independent, a clear majority of party members said they would be willing to pay for Brexit if it meant the break-up of the UK.

Such zealotry has not gone unnoticed in Scotland. Another poll on Friday found that the Scottish Tories, whose revival under the departed Ruth Davidson was built on Unionism, could lose all 13 MPs in a general election.

Johnson is also ensuring that the "Conservative" element of his party’s name is a thing of the past. Tories have always had faith in the power of the state, but by inclination they want to trim public spending and taxes. By instinct, Conservatives are wary of big government.

The Johnson Government’s spending review was anything but Conservative. Every problem – real or imagined – had as its solution an extra dollop of taxpayers’ money. It was the sort of the populist and shallow package the Brexit party would have proposed in government.

But the virus has spread beyond the body of the Tory party. The Conservatives used to revere the House of Commons, respect its precedents and uphold its traditions. Suspending Parliament and briefing the idea of disobeying any law to delay Brexit is a betrayal of that philosophy. Tory Trotskyism, embodied by Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings, is permeating the Government. Johnson has degraded Parliament and damaged its reputation.

This matters in Scotland, where support for independence is running at around 50%. Back in 2014, the Yes campaign lost the referendum after failing to persuade Scots of the economic case for leaving the UK. The flip side of the Better Together argument was that Westminster provided stability, unlike the uncertainty promised by the alternative.

The economics of independence are as fragile as ever, but the notion that the UK is a comparative oasis of calm is laughable. If Scottish voters regard Westminster as a car crash, rather than as a vehicle for progressive change, nobody should be surprised if soft No supporters look desperately for an alternative.

This is the key factor in any second independence referendum. Commentators talk about the prospect of Johnson simply blocking Nicola Sturgeon’s request for a section 30 order, but this is to confuse tactics with strategy. Playing hardball can get you through an election, but it is not a credible position in the long term. For the Union to prosper, not just survive, voters need to believe their lives are being improved by Westminster, which can only come from a Government with a clear majority to push through change. Such an outcome seems a distant prospect.

Some Unionists admit that these are difficult times, but whisper that 2020 may well be Sturgeon’s annus horribilis. The SNP will make gains at the general election, they argue, but the Salmond trial will rip the Nationalists apart. These legal proceedings are indeed the great unknown of Scottish politics, but it is telling that pro-Union politicians are betting the farm on an unpredictable event. Hoping that the other side falls apart does not strike me as a viable, or healthy, strategy.

Just as the Scottish Government is not the same thing as Scotland, so too is the UK bigger than either the Tory Government or the Houses of Parliament. However, a country is weakened when its people no longer have faith in the legislature. From making wild promises during the Brexit referendum that could never be kept, to subverting Parliament as Prime Minister, Johnson has put salt under the foundations of the UK. A reckoning is coming.