DONALD Trump once said, with his usual indelicacy, that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and voters would let him away with it. Yesterday in the House of Commons Boris Johnson attempted a similar attack on standards in public life.

After months of dodging questions about parties taking place in Downing Street while the rest of the country was in lockdown, the Prime Minister finally admitted that he did attend a party on May 20, 2020. He spent 25 minutes at the party. But he thought it was a work event and not a party. Now, 18 months later, he realises it was a party and he should have brought said party to a halt. For that he apologises.

So, let us take stock here. It was not a party, but it was a party. He is sorry, but he is not sorry. He broke the rules, he takes responsibility, but he will not resign.

Did you ever encounter such a sorry excuse for a Prime Minister as this one?

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The latest row began with the emergence of an email from the PM's principal private secretary to 100 staff, inviting them to "make the most of the lovely weather" by having drinks in the Downing Street garden. At least 30 people attended the May 20 event including, as has now been confirmed, the PM and his wife.

The party took place at a time when Covid restrictions were at their tightest and people were only allowed to meet one other person outside their household as long as they stood two metres apart.

This was just the latest instalment of “party gate”, a farce that has been running since the beginning of December last year when the Mirror broke the first of several stories.

Sue Gray, the civil servant investigating the alleged parties/gatherings now has a total of seven to look into. Another estimate, this one from Sky News, puts the number of bashes at 11. Who says hospitality suffered during lockdown? The Tesco Express in Westminster alone must have done a roaring trade in sausage rolls and fizz.

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In response to the latest allegation, the Prime Minister refused to say if he had been at the party, referring questioners to the Gray inquiry. It was a shocking abandonment of his duty to be accountable to the public. It appeared that he had misled parliament. But what did the public do about it?

There was no marching on the party central that is Downing Street. No strikes, no protests, no sign of discontent of the kind seen in other countries.

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Something else occurred, though. Something that, in its quietly devastating way, had more impact than any amount of shouting in the Commons, at Holyrood, or elsewhere. People began to tell their stories of what had happened during lockdown. Of what they had lost. What they had suffered.

They may have told the stories before but this time they were heard. It was as if legions of strangers, so isolated and busy until now trying to deal with their own problems, suddenly looked up and saw they were not alone. And they were not going to suffer in silence any more.

One evening, on the BBC’s News at Six, a woman was asked what she thought of Boris Johnson attending a party on the same day she was denied the chance to say a final farewell at her mother’s funeral. “I’ll be honest with you,” she said, “I really hate him. I’m sorry to say it because my mum would not want me to say that but he is just a disgrace. He has not said sorry, he doesn’t acknowledge what he has done, he lies and lies and lies.”

There spoke the voice of the unfailingly decent, usually silent, majority. One that was calling the Prime Minister a liar on the state broadcaster’s main evening news bulletin.

If you did not previously think a line had been crossed by Boris Johnson that could only be uncrossed by his resignation, now, surely, was the time to reconsider.

How could he possibly justify his behaviour when he finally had to answer for his actions at Prime Minister’s Questions?

Yesterday we found out. He could not. But he remains in his job, kept there by a party that will rid itself of him, but not yet. It is a grisly state of affairs, and one that is as damaging to the public’s confidence in politics and politicians as the expenses scandal.

His personal battle with Covid aside, Mr Johnson has led an astonishingly charmed life. Setbacks that would have felled others for good, including losing two jobs for not telling the truth, did not delay his progress in reaching the top job.

The list of those he has treated shabbily, in his personal life and in the political sphere, is a long one. Yet he ploughs on regardless, never looking back at the damage he has done. What matters to him is that he continues in the job to which he believes himself entitled.

In this he has been successful, until now. It might be wondered why this crisis should be any different to the others he has survived. While it was noticeable how openly unhappy some of his MPs and Ministers have been of late, no attacks yesterday came from his own benches. His party is not yet ready to humiliate him publicly as they did Margaret Thatcher.

At the same time, there was no sign of his Chancellor. Where was Rishi Sunak in his Prime Minister’s hour of need?

Sir Keir Starmer, for his part, went further in his condemnation of Mr Johnson than ever before, openly deploying the L-word when he asked the Prime Minister if he could not see why the British public thought he was “lying through his teeth”? Former Directors of Public Prosecutions, as the Labour leader was, do not generally speak to Prime Ministers in such a way. Across the chamber as a whole there was a sense of boundaries shifting and defences crumbling.

Perhaps worst of all for the Prime Minister was the way he came across. He looked more furious than devastated at each suggestion he had been enjoying himself while others suffered.

The petulant boy who wanted to be “world king” did not seem to grasp the enormity of the revolt against him, or the harm being done to what reputation he has left.

Those in his party who continue to keep him in power must ask themselves what further disasters lie in wait, and how much more damage the reputation of politics can take.