Alastair Stewart: Is it time out or time up for Boris Johnson?
Lords Heseltine and Adonsis have let their cat to of the bag - if Boris goes, Brexit goes - will rally many in the Conservative party
There’s a scene in Daniel Craig’s version of ‘Casino Royale’ where, having lost nearly everything, he borrows more money from the CIA’s Felix Lighter, and goes into a ‘winner takes all’ hand with the villain…. inevitably, he wins.
But that’s James Bond. This is Boris Johnson.
Reeling from accusations of misleading Parliament over parties, changing his version of events more times than many can remember and facing open rebellion from his own side - albeit not terribly well done - he now faces that final hand which is about to be dealt by Sue Gray -the senior civil servant investigating it all - whose report is due net week.
Today we’ve asked if it is time out or time up?
If Gray’s report is damning and finds him transparently guilty of having mislead parliament, it is almost certainly time up rather than time out.
No one knows what Ms Gray will say. If there’s a glimmer of light in it for the PM, then it is most certainly time out and game on. His friend and supporter Conor Burns told me, he is the Tories best hope - a man who has made all the right calls on big policy issues, from Brexit to Covid.
Others have argued that this time he’s gone too far and it is time up…I genuinely don’t know. But what is clear is that he still has the fight in him to go all 15 rounds.
What’s more, the impact of scrapping Plan B and heading rapidly to a full lifting of all covid restrictions is only dripping into the political consciousness of folk. Hints, too, that unpopular measures such as tax and national insurance increases may be dropped or postponed could also change the balance.
Given there is no clear successor all Tories can unite around - even though Chancellor Rishi Sunak is the clear favourite - plays Johnson’s way, too.
Finally, suggestions the malcontents are settling old grudges and, given Lords Heseltine and Adonsis have let their cat to of the bag - if Boris goes, Brexit goes - will rally many in the Conservative party.
It is finely balanced and until Sue Gray deals the cards, it's impossible to call.
If I had to bet, I’d say - it is time out and I’ll see you again, after the May elections.
But, in all honestly, no one knows and anyone who tells you they do - could lose their shirts!