What did we do to deserve this? After three agonising years of the Maybot’s indecision and confusion, even I was rather relieved to see Boris Johnson take over. Politics aside, it looked as if something was finally going to break the parliamentary deadlock. But instead of a decisive lead-from-the-front man of action, we have a rather pathetic clown. And Parliament is as deadlocked as ever.

Nothing went right for the PM this week. Three crushing Commons defeats, a dismal performance at Question Time, a Tory rebellion over his expulsion of 21 rebels (including two former Tory chancellors and Churchill’s grandson). Johnson ended the week in office but not in power; held hostage by opposition MPs ordering him to ask for an extension of EU membership that he said he will never request. Right now, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is under house arrest in Downing Street.

His much-vaunted language skills failed him too. He gabbled and fluffed his way through awkward photo-ops like an amateur. He was censured by the Tory Daily Mail for using bad language, like “shit”, at the Despatch Box. The most revealing remark was his describing Jeremy Corbyn as a “big girl’s blouse” at Question Time. Who still calls people things like that – it’s too stupid even to be sexist. Then he promises to “die in a ditch” – well, the way things are going ...

Putting Boris Johnson in front of those Wakefield police cadets, aping Donald Trump’s proto-fascist imagery, was excruciating. The PM at least had the decency to be embarrassed. Labour fans on social media might try to portray Boris Johnson as an incarnation of Mussolini, but he never has been a hard man. Boris is no Bolsonaro.

He is, at heart, a crowd-pleaser, a stand-up comedian even, who made his name on Have I Got News For You and by making funny speeches at Conservative conferences. The truth is he’s more like Stephen Fry – a gifted and highly literate raconteur with a fascination for the classics. He finds politics mostly too funny to be serious. But this is deadly serious.

It’s no surprise that his brother, Jo Johnson, couldn’t stomach this personality change and resigned from his government. His journalist sister Rachel told of awkward silences at the family dinner table. “We can’t have that [Brexit] conversation,” she told the Daily Mirror, “as it is fact confronting belief or religion.” It’s all become horribly personal.

The media have always hated Boris Johnson, partly because he is one of their own, a highly paid Telegraph columnist. But I don’t think I have ever heard a prime minister being so abused in the public sphere. The dignity of office has evaporated. It is routine to call the leader of the country a liar and a cheat.

But it isn’t just the antics of the PM that were a cause for concern. The opposition parties were making it up as they went along too last week. Initially, Labour made clear that they would accept an early election if “the bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit is on the statute book”, as Jeremy Corbyn put it.

Senior Labour figures like the housing spokesman John Healey told BBC TV that if the Benn Bill on extending Article 50 was passed, Labour would accept an election on October 15, as requested by the Prime Minister. The SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, initially criticised Labour for not wanting an early election and said it had to come “before Parliament is prorogued”. By Friday, all that had changed.

The opposition plan now, at least at the time of writing, is to keep Boris hanging on, in limbo, stewing in his own juice until after October 31. This means keeping the Prime Minister, who has refused to ask for an extension of Article 50, in office until after the date when the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. I hope they know what they are doing.

Perhaps things will change tomorrow if Boris Johnson gives concessions: a firm election date, scrapping the prorogation, votes for 16-year-olds. The Labour-supporting journalist Paul Mason has been arguing for something along these lines in exchange for an election on October 15.

But this is a very odd situation. It is a constitutional abomination to have a prime minister, with no majority, remaining in office. The correct response is to go to the country and let the people elect a new government. But thanks to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, opposition parties can now delay elections as long as they want.

As this column argued last week, Johnson may just ignore the Benn Bill, refuse to ask for an extension and challenge the opposition parties to do their worst. He remains Prime Minister after all. Perhaps it will end in the courts if he “breaks the law”. This might be an end game that his Machiavellian adviser, Dominic Cummings, would favour. Judges deciding to keep Britain in the EU would be a good prelude to a General Election campaign on who governs Britain.

He might also formally ask for an extension but make clear to Brussels that he doesn’t want one and will not co-operate. MPs can force the PM to ask for an extension, but they can’t force him to do so in good faith. This might force one of the EU 27 to block Britain’s request for extension of Article 50. Another possibility is that Johnson might hang on until after the prorogation of Parliament, and then resign, but remain as Tory leader. This would force the Opposition parties to form a government of national unity. That is, if they can find an acceptable leader. There is much disquiet about allowing “Marxist” Jeremy Corbyn to get his feet under the table in Downing Street, even for a short period.

There would be huge pressure on this scratch coalition. It would have the hard job of deciding what the extension is for. Is it to have an election? A referendum? Revoking Article 50? How long could this caretaker reasonably remain in charge without any endorsement from the voters?

It would certainly be seen as a betrayal of democracy by Leave voters. In the subsequent election, Johnson would claim that it was MPs who acted unconstitutionally. That it was the Remain parties that staged a “coup” by refusing an election and defying the people’s will, as registered in the 2016 referendum.

So delaying the election until after Brexit Day carries enormous risks. It also gives Boris Johnson time to get his act together. On his showing this week, Johnson couldn’t win a seat on his local council, let alone a General Election. He is ripe for the taking. But in the coming weeks he will have much better access to the airwaves and his government will continue spending money and generally preparing the ground for the General Election that must come soon. He will be able to look prime ministerial in Brussels when meeting foreign leaders.

The opposition have passed up the chance of a vote of no confidence and an early General Election. They think they have Boris stitched up like a kipper. They’ll have to hope that, by leaving Johnson in Number 10, they haven’t been too clever by half.