HOLLYWOOD likes a good John in an action movie. Sylvester Stallone was John Rambo, then Bruce Willis was John McClane in Die Hard, and these days Keanu Reeves is John Wick.

But it’s not a cast iron rule. Not every John can be a hero.

On paper, John Major is a great name for a muscle-bound maverick who breaks the rules to save the day. You can almost taste the popcorn when you say it.

But as we all know, it’s not happening. John Major isn’t going to be filling our screens and running away from an explosion in a bloody vest any time soon.

The name has been forever ruined by the Prime Minister between Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, the grey, monotone one the cartoonist Steve Bell always drew as a “crap superman” dopily wearing his Y-fronts over his trousers.

Yet even John Major took a shot at glory with a potentially career-ending gamble.

His party riven by splits over Europe, he decided to take on his internal critics by holding a snap leadership contest in 1995 and challenging them to “put up or shut up”. He won easily. It was, for a while, almost dramatic. Then he went back to being John Major again.

I was reminded of his inability to transcend his personality by Sir Keir Starmer’s ‘Beergate’ bet this week.

The Labour leader didn’t have much choice. Having (rightly) hounded Boris Johnson over broken lockdown rules in Downing Street, he had to act decisively when the police launched an investigation into whether he had broken them too.

As Labour argue, the two scenarios are very different, despite both leaders potentially being slapped with a fine.

The flouting of rules in Number 10 appears to have been extensive and habitual, the consequence of a slapdash culture that came from the top.

The Prime Minister dropped in on various lubricated shindigs, including the infamous garden party his private secretary asked 100 people to bring a bottle to in order to “make the most of the lovely weather”, then told parliament nothing untoward took place.

Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner tucked in when a campaign meeting for Labour activists in last year’s local elections in Durham had beer and curry in the room where they had been working.

But as the late Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie learned after he chased Labour First Minister Henry McLeish from office over dodgy bookkeeping, the prosecutor has to be cleaner than the accused to avoid a charge of hypocrisy.

When Mr McLetchie’s own expenses were found to be on the imaginative side, his leadership was doomed.

So although Sir Keir’s offence - if that’s what the police say it is - would be of a different order to Mr Johnson’s, the damage to his standing would be little different. If fined, he would have to go, so he may as well offer a conditional resignation now and get on with other things until Durham Constabulary finish off their work, and possibly his career.

Sir Keir took the moral high ground on Monday. He was acting out of honour and integrity, he said. Being a politician, he was also acting out of calculated self-interest, contrasting his probity with our fined-but-unresigned Prime Minister.

A former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir would have had a very clear picture of the law on lockdown rules at the time, the likelihood that he breached them, and what the police could categorically conclude took place.

While he may have been forced into it, his statement did not look like a kamikaze mission. Rather, he showed the confidence of someone with a pretty shrewd idea he would survive and knew he could use the episode to inflict further pain on the PM.

He would also have known the huge pressure he was putting on Durham police by saying his fate was in their hands.

The force’s most likely course is therefore to stick to its original position in clearing him, as any decision to deviate from that would have to be bombproof.

This isn’t like the Metropolitan Police belatedly fining the PM. The London force had reams of evidence and Sue Gray’s groundwork that it couldn’t ignore.

So on one level, Sir Keir should be pleased with some deft footwork that could burnish his reputation for honesty and further diminish the PM’s.

But then there is the lesson of John Major’s stab at changing the narrative.

Beergate appears to have gone to some Labour heads. There is excited talk about this being a turning point for Sir Keir’s leadership, the moment he grabs the public’s attention and shows them he’s far more interesting and exciting than they ever suspected, when finally his persona acquires a third dimension and he transforms into a political action hero.

This is where reality unkindly intrudes. If, as Sir Keir expects, he is not fined and carries on in post, he will not shame Mr Johnson into stepping down with his example. He is not the shameable sort.

Mr Johnson will dismiss his actions as fakery, just some play-acting by a tricksy lawyer who knew what was coming all along. Why, the case was rigged, M’lud!

And if the Labour leader does have to walk, the PM is cynical enough to latch onto Ukraine, the cost of living, Stormont or any other crisis as a reason for one of them to stay on for stability’s sake.

Sir Keir is not about to take the country by storm. His boast, if cleared, would be he didn’t break the law. But that should be a given. He won’t get a pat on the back from voters for it. They didn’t break Covid rules either, and they’re not bragging.

Above all, Sir Keir will, like John Major before him, rapidly go back to being much the same person he was before in people’s eyes, a decent but starchy barrister too jumpy and clever to be fun.

He may think he can win the next general election by turning it into a contest of personalities - his honour against Mr Johnson’s lack of it - but that will never be his strongest suit, though it may help.

Who the public blame for the cost of living crisis and who they trust to fix it will decide the outcome. Labour needs to focus on its attack lines and policies for that battle, not pin its hopes on Beergate.

Not every John can be a hero, and not every Keir either. But there are other ways to be a winner.