LESS popular than Phillip Schofield and Xi Jinping. Being compared to a scandal-hit daytime TV presenter and the president of China is not what Boris Johnson probably wished for on the eve of a Commons vote on his character.

But it is the one he received from pollsters JL Partners at the weekend. It is his birthday on Monday too. He will be 59. Will it be a case of many happy returns to politics to come, or is the Privileges Committee report the end for Johnson?

The Sunday politics shows were certain of one thing: for now, Boris was still box office. Even more so after The Mirror released a video of Conservative staffers dancing and drinking at a party during lockdown.

The December 2020 event has come to public attention before, though only as a photograph. As with that leaked video of Downing Street press office staff joking about parties, the behaviour looked so much worse seen “live”.

Michael Gove, Levelling Up Secretary and temporary minister for the Sunday shows, had no option but to apologise early and often as he toured the studios. It’s terrible, he told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday. I am sorry and I apologise unreservedly, he added later on BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

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Given two of the people at the party were given honours by Boris Johnson, would those awards now be withdrawn? You might have thought this was a simple matter of saying yes, but Mr Gove considered it more complex than that. There was a process to be followed.

He took the same “it’s complicated” line when Kuenssberg pressed him on mortgage rate rises, the latest of which is expected to hit this week. Asked if the Government would step in to help homeowners the way it had with energy bills and the furlough scheme, Mr Gove would give no such commitment. It would not tackle the root of the problem, which in his view was inflation rising globally.

We were not done yet with Mr Gove and his tendency to make things more complicated than they should be. Kuenssberg said he had a “complicated history” with Mr Johnson. That’s one way to describe their spectacular falling out over Johnson’s fitness to be Tory leader, and other dramas down the years.

Even so, given the damning report by the Privileges Committee, would he vote to endorse their findings? No, he would be abstaining because in his view the evidence did not justify the level of penalty.

How exhausting these Sunday shifts must be for Mr Gove. So many complications to explain, so many interruptions from interviewers demanding straight answers.

How much easier it was for Anas Sarwar. The Scottish Labour leader could not have chosen a better Sunday to appear. Besides the continuing woes of the SNP, there was a poll in the Sunday Times predicting huge gains for Labour in Scotland at the General Election. Plus, Keir Starmer was coming for a visit on Monday to talk about new green jobs replacing those in oil and gas.

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Labour has been frantically rowing back from its “no new oil and gas licences” stance of a few weeks back following a furious reaction by the unions. While the subject was raised, Mr Sarwar was not accused of a U-turn, or indeed pressed that hard on any other matter. Being given an easier time of it in interviews is one of the few benefits of being in opposition.

Kuenssberg ended the hour by interviewing Sir Mark Rylance, soon to appear in Dr Semmelweis, a play about the medical pioneer. This led to a discussion about the ability of humans to do great things, and not so great things. In a way the show had returned to where it started, with Boris Johnson and Partygate.

As fellow guest Simon Schama put it so eloquently: “We are paragons of the Enlightenment, we can do scientific miracles, we can produce a vaccine against covid far quicker than anyone could imagine. On the other hand, we are this barely evolved, mad cartload of primitive paranoia, hysteria, conspiracy theories and idiotically trivial complacency seen jiving while the rest of us poor mortals were locked down.”

Another panel member, Samuel Kasumu, a former adviser to Boris Johnson, was more succinct. “It’s completely possible to achieve great things and still be a bit of a (bleep). Not that I’m calling Boris Johnson a (bleep) of course, heaven forbid.”

Kuenssberg gave a sort of “Oh, I say!” gasp reminiscent of Dan Maskell at his Wimbledon finest. You have to love live television.

“Goodness me,” she said, laughing. “This is a family show on a Sunday morning so I hope nobody’s offended by that language.”

The man himself, Boris Johnson, has probably heard worse.