Having successfully persuaded Boris Johnson to stay well away from Scotland in the run-up to the May 6 Holyrood poll, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives must be holding his head in his hands at the latest Downing Street drama that is producing another raft of negative headlines.

The Prime Minister might be in London but the Boris factor could still play a significant role at the ballot box north of the border as Scottish voters mark their x in just 11 days’ time.

No doubt it was delivered with some relish when Nicola Sturgeon at the weekend declared: “The stench of sleaze that is surrounding this UK Tory Government is becoming quite overpowering.”

Having undergone an ordeal by public inquiry, the First Minister has added her voice for a “full comprehensive” probe into the claims about lobbying, cronyism, who offered to pay for what in the redecoration of the PM’s Downing St flat and anything else that can be thrown against Boris’s integrity; or lack of it.


Mr Johnson, who is expected to be on the stump in Wales today [but not Scotland, note], will be holding his breath this afternoon when Simon Case, the UK’s most senior civil servant, appears before MPs to answer questions that will cover not only Lobbygate but also the PM’s flat upgrade and whether or not Dominic Cummings, Boris’s idiosyncratic ex-adviser, was the so-called “chatty rat,” who leaked plans for a second lockdown; a claim he denies.

The PM’s colleagues are facing the daily discomfort of having to run the gauntlet of journalists’ questions over the raft of damaging sleaze allegations.

Yesterday, Liz Truss, the Trade Secretary, moved uncomfortably in her seat as she dodged whether Mr Johnson had touted Tory donors to pay for his flat’s £58,000 refurbishment but, ultimately, was forced to pay for it out of his own pocket.

This morning, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, was on the airwaves defending his “absolute first class” leader, insisting that what mattered was how the Government was getting on with the job of battling through the pandemic.

He complained: “We are getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories; unnamed sources…unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events. None of this is serious. The Prime Minister has been utterly focused on delivering, alongside Cabinet colleagues, the response to Covid.”

But if all this was not enough, No 10 has been forced to issue a robust denial to an astonishing claim by a Whitehall source, supposedly close to Michael Gove, that the PM told colleagues: “No more ****ing lockdowns; let the bodies pile high in their thousands.” Last night, Downing St angrily reacted by insisting: “This is just another lie.”

And there was a claim - again denied - that Mr Johnson recently met a Man Utd chief and privately backed the European Super League idea, only, of course, last week, on the back of fan outrage, to forcefully oppose it.

Today, Labour is pressing for a Government minister to go to the Commons to answer an Urgent Question on all the various claims about cronyism and sleaze.

Remarkably perhaps, the Opposition is not yet benefiting in the opinion polls from the flow of controversies. The Tories across the UK are still 11 points clear. Perhaps Conservative ministers are right; the public are not interested in what they regard as “tittle-tattle”.

Yet the darkening cloud hanging over Mr Johnson is not going to go away any time soon; time may be on Keir Starmer’s side.

Apart from the raft of parliamentary probes, next month Mr Cummings himself is, helpfully, due to appear before MPs.

When, last November to camera flashes, the PM’s former chief aide left No 10 St in a public ritual, performed for the benefit of the media, Mr Cummings was carrying a heavy cardboard box.

The question now is: does that box contain email print-outs, private correspondence and tapes of conversations that could ultimately spell the end of Boris’s premiership?