Will Boris Johnson survive the findings of the inquiry into Downing Street parties?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday January 19, 2022. Stefan Rousseau/PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

There have been times over the past week when it looked doubtful that Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself had any fight left to hold on to his job.

He was looking at the floor and breathing heavily when asked about having to apologise to the Queen - a picture of abject embarrassment.

MPs texted afterwards concerned that he looked “defeated’’, saying the situation was hell.

We started to make this ITV Tonight programme last Wednesday, on the day the prime minister tried to set out his defence to Parliament.

There were disbelieving jeers as he told MPs: “I believed implicitly that this was a work event.”

We wondered whether his political career was going to end before our edit.

Boris Johnson bows his head and breathes heavily as he is asked about saying sorry to the Queen

A week on, the Comeback King is still on his throne, although in the view of many of those we interviewed, that throne is now irreparably tarnished.

He has survived the immediate danger of a vote of no confidence this week. The 2019 intake’s so-called Pork Pie Plot crumbled.

The surprise defection of Bury South MP Christian Wakeford to Labour seemed to reignite some party loyalty, rather than the reverse.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, who has defected from the Conservatives to Labour Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The enormous looming elephant trap on this political Houdini’s horizon is the conclusion of Sue Gray’s report next week.

A former senior civil servant told me it was “inconceivable” that the Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds would not have checked with the boss, the prime minister, before arranging a large party for staff in his garden.

The worst outcome for Boris Johnson is if she finds concrete evidence that contradicts his version of events that “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules”.

It is possible she just sets out what she sees as the facts, makes no judgment on her boss, the prime minister, and civil servants and the No 10 communications team take the rap.

The majority of Tory MPs are holding fire to see due process done, but many are deeply fearful about the outcome.

Despite the best efforts of ministers to flood the airwaves with supportive comments - “Remember the vaccine rollout! Remember he delivered Brexit! - MPs will be paying closer attention to the anger coming from constituents.

And as we discovered up and down the country, it was hard to find someone who didn’t have a view on the prime minister's future - and most of it, he wouldn’t have wanted to hear.

Watch ITV Tonight's ‘Boris Johnson: Is the Party Over?’ at 7.30pm on Thursday, or catch up on ITV Hub.