THANKS to Emmanuel Macron, we now know the French word for knucklehead: gougnafier.

The ‘sacre bleu’ moments of trying to deal with Boris Johnson, whether over fishing rights, the Northern Ireland protocol or the migrant crisis, have accumulated to such a degree the French President can no longer contain his exasperation at his counterpart across the Channel.

Last week in Croatia, Macron reportedly told aides it was sad to see the UK being led by “un clown,” who was adopting the attitude of a knucklehead.

He claimed the PM had privately admitted to “creating phoney wars” against the French because he had to “cater to his public opinion” to mask difficulties over Brexit.

Satirical magazine, Le Canard Enchaine, quoted the President as saying: “Bojo talks to me, he’s down to earth, everything’s fine, we’re having grown-up discussions, and then he sticks it to us either beforehand or afterwards in an inelegant manner. It is very sad to see a great country, with which we could do so much, led by a clown. Johnson has the attitude of a knucklehead.”

Macron’s remarks came amid the row over Boris tweeting his letter to the President over the Channel migrant tragedy, which he took exception to. After peeling himself from the ceiling of the Elysee Palace, Macron acted in a way some branded petulant, uninviting Home Secretary Priti Patel to a meeting of European ministers to discuss the migrant issue.

Yesterday, George Freeman, the UK Business Minister, with a deal of understatement, described the President’s latest remarks as “unhelpful” and claimed they belonged in the “pantomime season,” linking them to the forthcoming French elections in April.

He expressed confidence “Anglo-French relations are rather better than that quote suggests”. Yet Whitehall insiders were claiming relations with Macron were now irreparable.

Tellingly perhaps, when asked about the President’s reported comments, the Elysee coolly replied: “No comment.”

Then Downing St suggested Britain might have to “wait until the other side of the French presidential election for a change of tone” from Paris. Which either means it thinks Macron is playing to the gallery ahead of the election and will calm down afterwards, or it’s hoping he loses.

Just to add to the cross-Channel contretemps, Sylvie Bermann, the former French ambassador to the UK, noted how relations between France and the UK had “never been as bad since Waterloo”.

Of course all this comes as Boris faces even harsher words on home soil for not being a knucklehead as such but, rather something much more serious, a liar and deceiver.

After the SNP repeatedly insisted the PM’s pants were on fire but failed to get the Commons to censure him over what one Nationalist MP branded “institutional sleaze,” Boris sought to defy political gravity again over the 2020 Downing St Christmas party.

At the time, of course, people were subject to a lockdown and being told not to socialise indoors.

But one No 10 insider revealed how on one occasion people played party games and were served food and drink with the revelry going on beyond midnight. Another made clear there were “loads of leaving parties” and unplanned social events in Downing Street throughout the lockdown.

At a feisty PMQs on Wednesday, Boris suffered a two-pronged attack on the subject with Keir Starmer for Labour claiming he was “taking people for fools” while Ian Blackford for the SNP denounced the PM’s “misconduct”.

Johnson conspicuously didn’t deny the allegations but insisted “all guidance was followed completely”. Yet, given parties were banned and there was at least one in Downing St during lockdown, then the charges from Starmer and Blackford clearly stick.

Indeed, the post-PMQs briefing for Westminster journalists took on a Twilight Zone atmosphere when Boris’s Press Secretary, repeatedly asked about the No 10 partying, replied: “We’re just saying we don’t recognise these reports.”

Pressed on whether non-recognition meant they were false, she replied: “We don’t recognise these reports and all Covid rules have been followed.” The pantomime season has indeed started early but no one is laughing.

As people hold their breath for the verdict on the Omicron variant, it is extremely important those in power follow the rules they exhort everyone else to follow. To do otherwise, undermines all of us and, indeed, puts us at risk.

Yesterday, families who lost loved ones during the pandemic said they were “sickened” by the No 10 Christmas party during lockdown. They demanded the PM apologise.

Following the suggestion from Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, that people should consider restricting their socialising over Christmas and Freeman saying larger firms might want to cancel their festive get-togethers as some Government departments have done, Boris, after he received his own Covid booster jab, was adamant any events held at No 10 were “in accordance with the rules”.

Asked whether he would be holding a Christmas party this year, the PM told broadcasters there were events held in Downing St “the whole time”. He added: “We had events for Hanukkah, we turned the Christmas lights on, and all sorts of things in No 10. And, in accordance with the rules, as you would expect.”

As hospitality businesses complained of mixed messages from the UK Government, Boris insisted: “People should follow the guidance that we’ve set out and people shouldn’t be cancelling things, and there’s no need for that at all.”

Keeping up the political pressure, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, revealed she had helpfully asked Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, to launch an inquiry into the No 10 partying and to call in Scotland Yard to investigate reports Downing St staff had broken lockdown rules by hosting parties.

Sadly for her, Macron and others, the exasperation at how Boris operates is unlikely to abate any time soon. No doubt, Starmer and Blackford could suggest a few other non-flattering words to describe the PM In French, one might be: dupeur. It translates itself.