Opposition parties often compare Government policies to a car crash, but it is rare indeed for prime ministers to use the same language about themselves. Boris Johnson’s self-confessed omnishambles last week was not so much a car crash as a multiple pile-up on the M6.

His performance before senior MPs on the Liaison Committee over the Owen Paterson sleaze affair was excruciating – not so much for what he actually said, but for his body language.

He looked like a shame-faced schoolboy in the headmaster’s study. All we needed was for Chris Bryant, chair of the Commons Standards Committee, to whip out his cane and give him six of the best.

Boris Johnson’s attempt to turn the tables on the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Question time earned him an unprecedented rebuke from Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. 

The cancellation of the Leeds branch of HS2, after repeated promises that the line would be built, provoked a revolt of red-wall MPs and headlines about the “Betrayal of the North”.

Labour are convinced that this has been a decisive week, a turning point. “The joke isn’t funny any more,” said Keir Starmer. It is probably the PM’s worst week since he received that rebuke from Lady Hale of the Supreme Court in September 2019 for unlawfully suspending Parliament over Article 50. 

However, the Spider Lady didn’t prevent Boris Johnson winning a landslide majority in the 2019 General Election. His powers of political recovery are legendary. Not for nothing did the former Tory prime minister David Cameron describe him as “slippery as a greased piglet”. You can never write Boris off.

But what if I said that Boris Johnson has done something much worse than sleaze, HST and the prorogation combined – and moreover that he seems completely unaware of it? Boris’s next car crash is with the very baby boomers who have helped him weather previous storms.

The over-65s are the Tories’ greatest electoral asset. In 2019, they voted 60 per cent for Boris Johnson, against only 20% for Keir Starmer. Baby boomers can be relied upon to do two things that don’t apply to younger cohorts: they ignore social media and they turn out to vote in elections.
HS2 is of little interest to older voters for the obvious reason that they’ll probably not be around to benefit from it.

They also remember the sleaze scandals of the 1990s and realise that what we are seeing now is a pale reflection of the avarice of the cash-for-questions MPs who turned Parliament into a lobbyist taxi rank. However, what they won’t tolerate is the raid on their living standards.

First off, Boris Johnson has broken his word by breaking the pension triple lock, which links state pension increases to rises in prices, wages or 2.5% – whichever is the highest.

The PM repeatedly promised to defend this measure, introduced by his predecessor David Cameron in 2010. 

Now it has been breached only the naïve believe that it will ever return. The triple lock was intended to rectify a historic injustice: namely that older people, who paid their taxes and contributed to National Insurance through their working lives, were often left in poverty in old age. Today, two million of them still live on the very margins.

This is because the state pension in the UK is the lowest in the developed world, according to the former pensions minister Ros Altmann, and simply not enough to live on.

And now it is being cut in real terms. The basic state pension will rise next year by 3.1% to £142, though many receive more than that. This is barely half the recent increase in wages and significantly less than the rate of inflation, which is expected to rise to around 5%. And that’s only the start.

Those pensioners who have been supplementing their pension by working past 65 will soon discover that they are paying National Insurance contributions, despite having supposedly paid all their “stamps” for this nominally contributory system.

Many pensioners depend on savings and/or private pensions. They will soon see the value of their savings diminished by inflation, and their fixed incomes dwindle. But perhaps the worse assault on the older Tory voters is the new system of social care in England.

Unveiled by Boris Johnson before the Budget as a bold solution to the problem of elderly care, what has emerged is essentially a state-financed transfer of wealth to those with the most expensive houses in the UK.

The cap on care costs of £86,000 will only benefit those in the south of England who live in properties worth substantially more than that.

Especially fortunate are the three million or so who now have houses worth over £1 million.

Those with the least wealth are being exposed to the catastrophic costs, while the wealthy will have the value of their assets protected at public expense.

In Scotland, we have free elderly care which doesn’t prevent high accommodation costs when old people enter care homes, but does help keep them in their own homes. More importantly, the policy has made elderly care a much less controversial here. It is a mystery why the UK Government didn’t emulate it.

And there’s another grievance for the baby boomers. They lived through the chaotic years of the 1970s when excessive public spending nearly wrecked the nation’s finances and led to Labour chancellor Denis Healey going cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund in 1976.

The Daily Telegraph, which is predominantly read by elderly Tory voters, has been fulminating for weeks about Boris Johnson’s reckless fiscal policies and his incontinent spending. 

They remember the “Barber Boom” of 1972/4 when a big-spending Tory chancellor, Anthony Barber, increased the money supply by 25% hoping to stimulate a boom.

It did that alright, but the bust that followed, aggravated by the Opec energy crisis brought hyper-inflation, industrial unrest and the three-day week. Labour was blamed for the financial crisis in the inflationary 1970s, but the groundwork was laid by the Tories. 

Of course, history never repeats itself, it only rhymes. But older people don’t like politicians taking risks with the nation’s finances, or behaving as if running the country was a joke. 

What did they expect, you might say? No-one could have been in any doubt that Mr Johnson is a seat-of-the-pants politician who thrives on chaos. But some kind of rubicon was crossed last week, and if there were a serious leadership challenger, now would be the time to make themselves known.

However, despite the implosion in Number 10, there appears to be no-one in any position to capitalise on it. Certainly not in the Tory party, where the paucity of leadership rivals is obvious. Keir Starmer still has some way to go before he poses a serious electoral threat to the Tories. 

The fact that Labour has been scoring better in the polls recently only underlines how poor Sir Keir Starmer’s performance has been hitherto. Even after this car crash Boris Johnson is still in the driving seat – just.

But Dominic Cummings’s description of him as the “shopping trolley” has never been more apt.