Boris Johnson is not very good at his job.

Some jobs admittedly are harder than others and it turns out being Prime Minister does have more challenging bits than running a right-wing politics magazine (though we obviously shouldn’t downplay the Herculean effort it takes to think up a good cover line). Mistakes will be made. But even allowing for the more demanding job spec, Boris Johnson is pants at Prime Ministering.

The first clue we had that the candidate might not have quite the right blend of skills and characteristics to do the job, looking back, was in 1988 when he got fired from The Times for making up a quote.

And then during the 1990s when he said quite a few things about the European Union that weren’t true.

And then there was the time he worsened the plight of the British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held in an Iranian prison, by giving sloppy evidence to a parliamentary committee.

But it’s all too easy to see these things with hindsight. Understandably, the Conservative Party, in keeping with its boundless spirit of generosity, wanted to give the man a chance. What he lacked in honesty, reliability, seriousness, a work ethic, attention to detail and evidence of competence, he made up for in enthusiasm. He did so want the job, it seemed churlish not to hand the future of the country and everyone in it to him on a plate.

A year on, we’ve come back to a Westminster in ferment to see how that appointment has worked out.

You could argue that it takes a certain talent to win a majority of 80 and within months have put yourself in the position of having to do deals with your backbenchers to prevent a humiliating parliamentary defeat, all because you want the freedom to break element s of international law that you yourself negotiated just nine months earlier.

You might also say that it takes a certain kind of genius to hack off the EU, your most important trading partner, with whom you desperately need to do a trade deal, at the same time as annoying Congressional lawmakers in the US, your second most important trading partner, with whom you desperately need to do a trade deal in order to justify having hacked off the EU so much.

You could argue that, but if this is what genius looks like, then I’ll take boring, predictable middle-of-the-road competence every single time.

Oh to have a dull Prime Minister. To have Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband; even Theresa May would be better than this.

How much lasting damage Johnson has pointlessly done to the UK’s reputation abroad we can’t yet fully quantify, but it’s likely to be significant as Joe Biden’s intervention indicates. But Johnson is not just untrustworthy. In recent months we’ve seen a man who has seemed at times disengaged when events demand empathy, gravitas and authority.

Perhaps he can’t help that he has a manner so shifty and dishevelled that he looks perpetually as if his aides have just extracted him from a liaison in a broom cupboard.

But he can help the words that come out of his mouth. He can control the decisions that his government makes – or rather he could were he not a wholly owned subsidiary of Cummings Inc.

This PM has had more thorny problems to deal with than most, albeit that Brexit is one of his own making. And we can forgive some of the U-turns and policy revisions as the Covid crisis has unfolded.

But time and again we have seen the same thing: gung-ho optimism and reluctance to face reality until forced to. We saw it over lockdown, we’ve seen it over testing and we’ve seen it with turbo boosters over his endless promises of cake-and-eat-it deals with the EU.

He just doesn’t inspire confidence. At a grilling this week by Commons committee chairs, he was asked by Hilary Benn why he wasn’t prepared to rely on Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which deals with how to arbitrate disagreements with the EU.

The Prime Minister resorted to his usual garbled blusterings. He claimed that he was trying to ensure “belt and braces” protection against an “extreme” interpretation of the protocol. Is this because the clause is defective or did you think you would lose in arbitration? asked Benn. Mr Johnson muttered his earlier lines over again. Did you not realise these problems when you negotiated Article 16? That’s a fair question, answered the Prime Minister – but would only say that he believed the EU would negotiate in good faith.

Either the Prime Minister did not understand what he was doing when he signed one of the most important treaty documents of the last 50 years, or he did know and is only now dealing with the consequences, just weeks before a deal is supposed to be concluded.

Either way, it howls incompetence.

Meanwhile, the Internal Market Bill has stoked the fires of the Scottish independence campaign with its needlessly provocative provisions on devolution and has undermined Britain’s reputation for keeping its word just months before we leave the EU and must enter fresh trade negotiations around the world.

Mr Johnson’s iconoclasm and derring do, which was so refreshing to some voters a year ago, now just seems foolish and irresponsible.

Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader who now holds the shadow business brief, took apart the Prime Minister in the Commons on Monday and gave us a glimpse of what might have been.

Suddenly, nearly every party leader of the last 20 years looks like a superstar compared to Mr Johnson. Going by the (admittedly low) standard of whether or not they would have taken this course of action in this negotiation, Miliband, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May and even the hapless Jeremy Corbyn, would sail over the bar.

This is Mr Johnson’s mess – and he knows it. The Prime Minister firmly denies that he has any intention of leaving Downing Street in January. As always with Mr Johnson, one wonders how true that is.

If he were considering it, he should go now, before he crashes us out of the EU with no deal.

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