FROM the government that brought us such hits as "The UK is not a corrupt country’’ we now have a new assurance that is sure to reach the No1 spot.

On Tuesday, a government spokesperson told reporters that the Prime Minister is physically well and has not lost his grip.

This less-than-comforting statement came after a quietly damning question was put to the man himself on camera after his shambolic speech to the CBI.

The journalist listed everything that had went wrong and then asked the Prime Minister: "Frankly, is everything OK?’’

This new media approach: of bafflement and concerned head-tilts will worry the Conservative party more than any furious or forensic condemnation of their leader ever could.

This change has crept up on the Prime Minister unawares.

It was confirmed in the reaction to his self-inflicted wound over the Owen Paterson affair, but it started before.

READ MORE: Herald Diary: Did Bo-Jo visit Peppa Pig World without the use of a passport or border checks?

These last few weeks have caught the attention and imagination of the public.

Boris Johnson’s woes as leader have, to use that awful phrase, "cut through’’ with those who might not follow every twist and turn of politics, but nevertheless do notice when their Prime Minister repeatedly makes an eejit of himself on TV.

Yet how often have we been told that Boris Johnson is a showman; a star orator and the kind of man you’d want to have a drink with?

It’s impossible to say, but the myth was certainly repeated often enough that a sizeable portion of the public started to believe it.

That’s despite the fact that his own words and deeds painted a much different picture.

His speeches have always been rambling and littered with self-indulgent tangents.

Boris Johnson hasn’t changed.

His speech to the CBI, complete with Peppa Pig references, broom-broom noises and 20 seconds of dead air as he lost his place, wasn’t the Prime Minister on an off-day.

The total absence of giving a damn that it takes to put on such an amateurish performance is something he’s been practicing for years.

Only now, belatedly, the laughter has finally stopped.

Even those commentators who usually pretend to enjoy his daft Latin quotes and half-formed anecdotes have lost patience with him.

Perhaps now they’ll stop insisting that his laziness is actually part of a wider strategy that the rest of us are just too stupid to follow.

His colleagues are fed up too.

If it hasn’t already, their demonstrable weariness of the prime minister should be sounding alarm bells in Downing Street.

The anonymous quotes spewing forth from the parliamentary party are as entertaining as they are brutal.

He’s not Bojo anymore. He’s not their star performer or winning ticket. He is "weak’’ and his authority is "evaporating’’.

One senior Tory MP told The Sun: “He is like Jose Mourinho – he was good a decade ago and his powers have been fading ever since.

“Yes, he won an election, but a bowl of soup could have beaten Jeremy Corbyn.

“There is real anger. He has until Spring to get back on track or he will be in real trouble."

According to reports in recent days, some letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister have already been submitted to the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady.

The numbers are always notoriously difficult to pin down. The only person who ever knows the true total is Sir Graham himself.

Newspapers have the current total at anywhere between a handful, a flurry and a dozen.

The magic number is 54 – 15 per cent of Tory MPs. When, and if that total is reached, a leadership contest will be triggered and we could be saying bye-bye to Boris.

Nobody is seriously suggesting we’re anywhere near that point yet.

But Boris Johnson would be foolish to take the support of his party for granted.

In the medium to long term, doing so could mean the end of his premiership. Even in the short term, when a prime minister loses the respect of their colleagues it makes their job immeasurably more difficult.

Party discipline is already breaking down. Even MPs from the 2019 intake (those newbies who would usually be keen to impress the party bigwigs) are rebelling on votes, most recently on the government’s proposed reforms to social care in England.

The government’s hefty 80-seat majority should make getting business through the Commons easy.

But with every scandal and unforced error you see how quickly that majority can be whittled down.

On the government’s social care amendment, it was just 26.

Some of the so-called ‘red wall’ MPs are a lot more independently-minded than many would have expected.

The hardcore Brexiteer wing of the party was a persistent thorn in the side of former PM Theresa May.

The red wall young team might well become that for this Prime Minister.

To add to his troubles, Keir Starmer’s Labour look in danger of becoming a decent opposition.

Labour MPs have been front and centre during the corruption scandal, not only to point out the sleekit antics of the UK government, but also to put forward ideas to clean up our politics.

Their line about how "the joke isn’t funny anymore’’ is simple, but effective.

The polls are shifting in Labour’s favour but their strategy isn’t reliant on an immediate reversal of fortunes for the two main parties.

They just need to chip away at the Prime Minister’s credibility, bit by bit, until either his party gets sick of him or the public does.

For his part, Boris Johnson seems intent on giving the opposition all the help he can.

If this were a different leader of a different party, you’d say there was plenty of time for him to turn things around ahead of the next election.

But the Tories are brilliantly ruthless when it comes to dispatching leaders who are past their sell-by date. And Boris Johnson’s rampant narcissism doesn’t allow for much self-reflection or personal growth.

That’s a potent mix that makes his future look less certain than ever.

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