YESTERDAY the Commons was busier than I’ve ever seen it, with journalists packed into the press gallery and MPs queueing up around the chamber unable to find a seat.

When Mr Johnson began his statement, where he apologised for attending a drinks reception in his own garden at the height of lockdown, the house fell silent as MPs strained to take in every word.

This silence ended when Mr Johnson admitted he had indeed been at the May 2020 event, giving the excuse that he considered it to be a work event and suggested that it may “technically” have fallen within the rules at the time.

How this can be the case, and why Mr Johnson didn’t know there was a party in his own back garden until he found himself among it, are questions the public are rightly asking but to which there will inevitably be no answer.


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What comes next is a question of survival and of succession – could the “King of Comebacks” survive this disaster, and who would replace him if he left?

One thing is almost certain – he will never resign by his own accord. It has been seen time and again – Mr Johnson is nothing if not resilient and he has a brass neck to prove it. Yes, he was sacked from previous jobs in journalism and on his party’s frontbench for being loose with the truth, but somehow he has become our Prime Minister. The rumours in Westminster are he wants to cling on until at least August 20 as he will then have survived longer than predecessor Theresa May.

This timeline could be accurate. The general consensus is that he will limp along until May, when the council elections take place across the country. Even if the Tories get a kicking in these elections, he could survive until the summer when MPs are in recess and have idle hands. This will be the real test for Mr Johnson, as a new leader would need to be installed well before the next General Election – in 2024 – to make enough of an impact to win back the Tories’ popularity.

His potential successors are already canvassing support behind the scenes. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are the two obvious candidates, who have already grabbed headlines and made an impression on the party since the 2019 election.

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Other names being floated include Steve Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and former chief secretary to the Treasury, as well as Steve Baker – a popular MP in internal Tory circles but relatively obscure to the general public. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who took a strange stance last week in declaring that the planned National Insurance rise should not go ahead, could also throw his hat in the ring.

It is clear that whoever replaces Johnson will only do so when he is forced out of office. Mr Johnson will undoubtedly fight to the end to hold on to his position. At the same time, he may believe he can “ride out” the current turmoil – an example of how possibly out of touch he is with the general public, and how incapable Mr Johnson is of gauging the strength of feeling across the country over the latest revelations.

The true test now will be with the Conservative MPs, and whether any are brave enough to send the ill-fated letter to the 1922 Committee triggering the leadership contest which would see the end of Mr Johnson as Prime Minister.