“IT would take a heart of stone not to laugh” remarked the former Tory Cabinet Minister, David Mellor, on TV moments after Theresa May broke down in tears at the lectern outside Number Ten. He's the nasty party personified, but I suspect Mellor's good riddance was closer to the true sentiment of the hard-hearted Conservative Party than the insincere valedictories we heard from Tory MPs.

All political careers end in tears, after all, but this is the first time it's happened literally. Why didn't she show some emotion earlier? Things could have been so different, according to the Labour MP, Heidi Allen, and a legion of commentators,who seem to think that nothing became Theresa May so much as her leaving. But do they seriously think that if only the Maybot had shed a tear or two before now she might have got her Withdrawal Agreement passed by parliament?

Columnists may be minded to sympathise with the second woman prime minister, hounded from office by the misogynists of the 1922 Committee. But Theresa May's departure had nothing to do with her sex. She was hoist on her own string-pearl petard the moment she said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. It wasn't a want of emotion that turned her premiership into a political horror show, but her decision-making.

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She allowed herself to be the hostage of the right wing European Research Group of MPs when she could have been seeking compromise in parliament. Indeed it was a little rich hearing the Prime Minister (she's still in post remember until a successor is found) lecturing us on the need for compromise in politics. Her premiership was an object lesson in failure to seek negotiated agreement. She threw up arbitrary red lines - no customs union, no referendum, no delaying A50 - and stuck to them just long enough to ensure that she would derive no credit for finally breaching them.

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This culminated in her last-minute concessions on a customs union and a meaningful referendum vote. This might have succeeded in bringing Labour on side a year ago, but had little hope at the fag end of her premiership when she'd lost all authority. All it did was provoke a cabinet revolt, further resignations and her tear-stained departure as the government collapsed and opened the way for Boris Johnson

“He who wields the knife doesn't wear the crown” said everyone in the wake of Theresa May's defenestration. This supposed iron rule of political leadership dates really from 1990 when another blond populist, Michael Heseltine, succeeded in destroying Margaret Thatcher but lost out to the colourless technocrat, John Major, in the subsequent leadership election. But that was a long time ago. I'm not sure this rule means applies to our current splenetic politics. Anyway, Theresa May knifed herself very effectively. Boris didn't have to raise a finger

Normally, Tory MPs would opt for someone centrist, someone 'strong and stable' - that's the raison d'etre of British Conservatism after all But these are not normal times. We are in an age when comedians and showmen are as likely to win elections as sober-suited and responsible moderates. Look at Italy, Ukraine, the USA.

Conservative MPs are terrified of Nigel Farage, and they are right to be, as we will see tonight in the European election results when the Tories are all but wiped out. It's not inconceivable that, if the Tories fail to find an answer to the Brexit Party, Mr Farage could destroy them again in the early general election which everybody now realises is inevitable.

Iain Machirter: Even with May gone, Britain will still be stuck in purgatory

Politicians love talking about principle and pragmatism, but what they really care about is keeping their seats and their salaries. The Brexit Party may have no policies, no manifesto, no history and no real party organisation. It may be personality cult fuelled by dark money. But tradition is irrelevant, and manifestos are not believed. It is a Tory killer.

Many English voters, and not a few Scottish ones, feel betrayed by the political class. They don't give a toss that Nigel Farage lacks any coherent policy on Social Care, Universal Credit or the gender pay gap. They just want to give politicians a kicking, which means they are likely to support anyone who departs from convention.

Many see Boris – one of the few politicians famous enough to be referred to by his first name - as a politician who says what he actually thinks. Authenticity is the key quality now in politics. Johnson has charisma and above all recognition. He's a winner, who was elected twice as Mayor of London, an ethnically-diverse city that normally backs Labour. This is why he is leading the field.

Everyone knows that Johnson has, well, issues. He was sacked by the Times because he fabricated a quote; sacked again as a junior arts minister for lying about an affair. Johnson once referred to black people as “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”; was a pretty useless Foreign Secretary. Everyone remembers that car crash interview in 2017 when the then BBC presenter, Eddy Mair, called him a “nasty piece of work”.

But for many of today's voters, resentful of political correctness and suspicious of the media, these negatives hardly matter, any more than Donald Trump's alleged sexual harassment matters to left-behind voters in middle America. The more Johnson is attacked on social media as a racist, the more middle class leftists hurl milk shakes at him ( and they will ) the more he is likely to appeal to the politically alienated.

There is a demographic underpinning to populism One of the big social changes in the last twenty years, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out in its survey on inequality, is the collapse of the secure middle class lifestyle. Middle Britain has been squeezed by house prices, the hollowing out of careers and the march of technology. As they lose their security, voters are less enamoured of “steady as she goes”, middle-of-the-road politicians ike John Major or Theresa May. They want to shake things up.

Of course, Boris Johnson is wholly unsuited to be a prime minister. By all accounts he is lazy, disrespectful, unreliable, slap dash and has a casual relationship with the truth. More importantly, he has no solution to Britain's Brexit impasse. He will rapidly discover that something like May's Withdrawal Deal simply has to be passed by parliament even to achieve the WTO free trade deal he promises.

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Parliament will block a No Deal Brexit, even if it means forcing a general election. Brussels will run rings round him a he tries to wing it. Theresa May will hang around just long enough to see him fail, providing a running commentary on his incompetence.

Conservative MPs probably have the ability to block Johnson by voting tactically to prevent him being one of the two candidates put to the 120,000 Tory members in July. But he is also a politician in tune with the times. Like an intellectual version of Donald Trump, he has the ability to rise above scandals that would destroy normal politicians. He possesses the immunity of the notorious.

He is the only politician who can take on Nigel Farage, in his own populist game. So the Tories have the choice of living dangerously with Boris Johnson, or dying quietly with a colourless place-man like Jeremy Hunt.