A funny thing happened on the way to Laura Kuenssberg bringing her interview with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves to a close.

Some 20 minutes into BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, and having asked questions on tax, spending, growth and everything else you would expect the person who wants to be Chancellor of the Exchequer to know, Kuenssberg wondered if Reeves planned to move her young family into Downing Street (she has two primary school age children).

Would this kind of personal question been asked of a male politician? Probably. Since the arrival of the Blairs in 1997 it is not unusual for the media to ask about living arrangements and other domestic details as a way of getting to know the person behind the job title. In Rishi Sunak’s case the questioning is now so granular it extends to his wife’s dishwasher-loading skills (or lack thereof, according to him).

What is certain is that no one asked prime minister Anthony Eden, or his predecessors, if his children would be living “above the shop” or whether he stacked cutlery prongs up or down. Such impertinence would have been unthinkable in those deferential times.

Last week Eden featured in a BBC4 documentary, How the BBC Began, as a marker between how things used to be and what they have become. According to the film-makers It was the uproar over Suez that forced Eden to become the first PM to address the UK on television.

It was a fraught occasion, recalled a young producer of the time by the name of David Attenborough. “Poor Lady Eden” was in such a state over how washed out her husband looked she suspected a plot and applied mascara to his moustache to make it stand out. (She later denied this; Sir David stands by what he said.) After Eden the line between personal and political blurred further. It was no longer enough for politicians to raise their heads come election time and demand coverage of their policies alone. The public wanted to know what individuals were “really” like. It is a question they would never ask of a supermarket manager or a dentist but people elected to power? They are seen as fair game.

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It is a rough and ready way of choosing politicians but it works. Has there ever been a prime minister who was entirely misjudged while in office? True character tends to come through in the end, no matter how hard the press office works.

Which brings us to Boris Johnson. Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, the great white shark of English populism puts a fin above the waves again.

I know, I know, you’ve seen this movie a million times before, but you can’t keep a classic down. Like the Easter Bunny and Santa, Boris comeback stories have their seasons. The run-up to a general election wipeout for the Tories is shaping up to be one such occasion.

First to arrive is a new, four-part Channel 4 docuseries, The Rise and Fall of Boris Johnson. This was followed by comeback headlines in the Daily Telegraph, and more in a similar vein across the Sunday papers. “Tory MPs in new plot to oust Rishi - and they want Boris to take over” was the Mail on Sunday’s summation. (Its editorial was all for him being given a battle bus and sent out campaigning, but not as leader.) The Sunday Times had its own Boris on manoeuvres story involving the former PM and foreign secretary surfacing in oil-rich Venezuela last month to plead Ukraine’s case for help. He reportedly told the current foreign secretary, David Cameron, by text of the unofficial talks as a matter of courtesy. That presumably spares him the kind of snippy letter sent to Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, for meeting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

I must admit the heart sank at the prospect of four more hours being added to the already comprehensive coverage of Johnson. The parties, the wives, Brexit, proroguing parliament, Covid, the parties, the lovers, Gove, Cummings - what more could possibly be said that would throw useful light on the subject? Turns out quite a bit. There is nothing front page worthy in the films, little that has not been seen or referenced before. But the way it is put together is highly watchable and, for Johnson, dangerous.

The most telling quote comes from Andrew Gimson, a former colleague of Johnson’s and his biographer. Boris was always trying to find out how much Gimson was being paid for the book, and each time the two met Johnson would offer him more to ditch the project.

Gimson recalls: “He said, ‘If it’s a p*** take that’s fine, a comic book, but nothing could be more damaging than a book that told the truth about me.’”

If this series is the closest we get to the truth about Johnson it is a pretty damning indictment. The footage from the time tells its own story, the public story, but it’s the women who define him in the end. The mother who entered a psychiatric hospital when he was ten years old, her friends, his au pair, the wives and the lovers, one way or another those who want to have their say.

Standing out from the crowd was Jennifer Arcuri, the American tech entrepreneur. She damns Johnson as a “wimp” and a “spineless coward” for refusing to speak to her on the phone when the story of their relationship broke years later. Another ex says he lacks moral courage.

It would take an extraordinary person to bounce back after this mauling. We should not be surprised if he tries. As Laura Kuenssberg once pointed out, this is a man who has made a career out of doing things that people thought were impossible. He is only 59, a mere pup compared to his populist brethren. There is time yet for panicking Tories to succumb. Next time no-one can say, again, that we were not warned.

By the by, in answer to the question of whether Rachel Reeves will move her family into Downing Street if Labour wins, she opted to discuss that with her children rather than announce it to the media. Personal, political and classy.

The Rise and Fall of Boris Johnson, C4, Wednesday, 9pm, all episodes on C4 catch-up.