THE proposed “Government of National Unity” is self-evidently ludicrous. Unity is the last thing that characterises the nation, and a caretaker administration, under perhaps Ken Clarke or Margaret Beckett, devoted to remaining in the EU or indefinitely postponing exit in defiance of both the popular vote and the policy of the elected government, wouldn’t conjure unity into being.

There are, however, signs of common purpose, if not quite unity, amongst opposition politicians (who are now a majority). They have worked together to prevent the executive from meeting its aim of leaving the EU at the end of the month no matter what happens, and also to refrain from calling a general election, even though everyone — no matter how much they dread the prospect, or think it unlikely to settle anything — can see that it’s inevitable. The other consensus is in the sustained and personalised attacks on the Prime Minister.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson to make 'final offer' to EU on Brexit 

Of course, all prime ministers are on the receiving end of personalised attacks. And most of them have some basis in reality. It’s hard to argue with the claims that Theresa May was an intransigent authoritarian, as well as a useless waste of space, that David Cameron was a smug toff with no clear purpose, that Gordon Brown tanked the economy, that Tony Blair, after he stopped being able to walk on water, misled the country in order to drag us into war, that John Major... well, you get the point. But I think you have to go all the way back to the Thatcher years to find a prime minister who has so effectively united opponents in the level of personal vitriol flung about.

This abuse used to be merely that he was a posh buffoon. Then it was that he was more or less a fascist dictator. And now it’s that he’s practically up there with Jimmy Savile as a sexual predator. A lot of people seem actually to hate him.

One interesting aspect of this approach, though, which you wouldn’t gather either from social media, where people delight in amplifying the complaints, or from conventional coverage, where the media naturally report on Boris Johnson’s travails as dominating the political agenda, is that it simply isn’t working very well.

The PM gets defeated on vote after vote; he loses whatever marginal majority he had; he gets hamstrung by the Benn Act requiring he do the opposite of his stated policy; the Supreme Court overturns his bid to prorogue Parliament, which reassembles in order to do nothing very much apart from complain about him; and a string of accusations about his private life appear in the newspapers. And the net result, in poll after poll, is that the Conservative Party’s lead grows.

The strategy of directing all their ire at Mr Johnson, in fact, accounts for the necessity of the other part of the strategy — keeping him in office. Because the calculation that the opposition parties have to make is not merely that calling an election might, because of the timing, lead to the UK leaving the EU without a deal. It is that if that happens, or if they are seen to have kept us in the EU by blocking the Prime Minister, Mr Johnson might very well win by a landslide.

That’s by no means certain— the percentage poll lead might not translate into a majority of seats, and the degree to which the Brexit Party or tactical voting by Remainers will affect the result will depend on the state of play at the time — but it’s perfectly possible, especially since opposition votes are divided among Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP.

No one can endure such attacks forever without sustaining damage, of course, and Mr Johnson — nothing if not a crowd-pleaser (except for the people who can’t stand him) — obviously isn’t enjoying it. But I think there must be more reasons for the polls than the fact that the normal rules don’t apply to Boris — one of which is that it’s terribly difficult not to think of him as Boris, even for people who don’t know him.

His apparent bumbling, and to some degree his rackety romantic life, have already been, as it were, “priced in”, but it’s not just that he is indulged or forgiven for things that no other politician would get away with, or that enough people find him attractive, or amusing, or a “character”.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson 'can't remember grope allegation event' 

That act, like any other, can wear thin, and might well still. There are other considerations. First, that the more shrill and vehement the attacks on him, the more he looks reasonable and hard done by, and the more his supporters are inclined to say: “Come off it.”

Secondly, that he looks — in sharp contrast to recent PMs — as though he knows what he wants, and is determined to get it. And, most important of all, like Mrs Thatcher, he has understood the most important political principle of all, which is that it doesn’t matter how much your opponents hate you or how much they throw at you, as long as they remain in the minority. Whatever the clamour, that still looks to be the case.