At times he was defiant and angry; at others rattled and evasive.

The three-hour parliamentary grilling by the Commons Privileges Committee was box-office Boris Johnson but there were theatrical moments when the wriggling ex-PM looked like a politician on borrowed time.

“Hand on heart, I did not lie to the House,” he declared, claiming “absolutely essential” work gatherings included staff leaving-dos in Downing Street, which he argued were necessary to maintain morale and were allowed under his Government's Covid guidelines.

“Absolutely essential” perhaps like the funerals which grieving relatives had to miss or the loving bedside goodbyes they had to forego because they responsibly abided by the full force of the pandemic restrictions.

Post the grilling yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer branded the No 10 pandemic parties “reprehensible” and accused Mr Johnson of “total disrespect for the national sacrifice”.

Perhaps with an eye to the outcome, the ex-PM slammed the Westminster process to decide if he was in contempt of Parliament as “manifestly unfair”.

His small band of supporters branded it a “kangaroo court”. Ultra-loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted midway through proceedings: “Boris is doing very well against the marsupials.”

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Later, the pin-striped MP claimed his one-time Cabinet chum had “won in the court of public opinion”. Which seemed slightly at odds with a poll of 4,000 people, conducted on Wednesday, with 72% believing Mr Johnson was dishonest, 13% saying he was honest and 15% not knowing.

True to form, the highest proportion of those who thought the ex-PM dishonest was in Scotland, with 82% expressing this view.

Senior Tory MP Caroline Nokes didn’t mince her words and said Mr Johnson was “finished” while a colleague concluded: “Boris has torched his future.”

Asked under cross-examination if he had "reflected" on the June 2020 birthday gathering – for which he was fined £50 – before later telling MPs Covid rules and guidance had been followed at all times, Mr Johnson replied: “No I didn't and that's because it was a long time ago. I'm afraid it had entirely slipped my mind. I thought it was a completely innocent event.”

He insisted the social gathering had been “reasonably necessary for work purposes” even though those present included his wife, son and an interior designer.

The ex-PM stressed he couldn’t name the officials who had assured him all Covid guidance had been followed; most didn’t want to be identified.

Interestingly, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case told the inquiry he didn’t give Mr Johnson such assurances nor did Jack Doyle, his communications chief.

Probably the most telling moment, certainly the angriest, in the evidence session came when committee members quizzed the ex-Tory leader on the assurances aides did give him.

Committee chair Harriet Harman KC, suggested they were “flimsy” while Sir Bernard Jenkin, a former Johnson ally, pointed out that given the gravity of the pandemic, it might have been wiser if the ex-PM had sought advice from senior Government lawyers rather than relying on spin doctors.

Mr Johnson fumed: “This is complete nonsense, I mean, complete nonsense. I asked the relevant people; they were senior people. They had been working very hard.” That’s ok then.

It must be questioned why the creator of the Covid rules, who every day urged us to follow the guidance, needed assurances when he had eyes to see the bottles of champagne on the tables.

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Ms Harman put it thus: “If I was going at 100mph and I saw the speedometer saying 100mph, it would be a bit odd, wouldn’t it, if I said: ‘Somebody assured me that I wasn’t’?”

Of course, it’s worth remembering why Mr Johnson was forced to resign as PM. His colleagues couldn’t trust him because he lied to them one too many times with the Chris Pincher affair. No fewer than 57 ministers and aides resigned.

It seems that part of the ex-PM’s character is he believes he can blag and deceive his way through life. But, ultimately, his flaws have caught up with him.

Will Mr Johnson’s performance have changed some people’s minds? Probably not. I suspect his supporters who like the blustering “good old Boris” will still retain affection for him while those who dislike his duplicity will continue to roll their eyes every time he makes an appearance.

From the incredulous demeanour of his inquisitors, I suspect they too have already made up their minds; that Mr Johnson is guilty of something. Proving he deliberately lied to the Commons is extremely difficult; less so being reckless.

And it is this point, the MPs’ focus on the advice he was given, which could prove crucial; that given how serious the situation was, he should have called in the Attorney General to give counsel; ipso facto, not to do so was reckless.

Any censure by the committee will lead to a Commons vote. Interestingly, if such a circumstance were to arise, Rishi Sunak has decided – generously and, of course, not vindictively – to give Tory MPs a free vote.

It was, of course, during the grilling that MPs voted on the PM’s Stormont Brake. Mr Johnson was the unofficial leader of the 22 Conservative Spartan rebels who voted against. But his successor easily got the measure through the Commons.

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If Westminster were to decide to punish the ex-PM, it could lead to a by-election in Mr Johnson’s north London constituency of Uxbridge. He has a 7,210 majority, which, in normal times, would be pretty safe. But…

Recent reports have suggested Mr Johnson has been looking at schools in Henley; his old stomping ground, which he represented for seven years. Intriguingly, his successor in the safe Conservative seat hasn’t said if he will stand at the 2024 General Election. Is a Plan B forming in the Johnson brain?

While the ex-PM might believe, like his hero Winston Churchill, he could stage a glorious Downing Street comeback, I suspect, for all his resilience, energy and chutzpah, his political future is now behind him. And most of the country knows it; perhaps, in his heart of hearts, he does too.