Voices: Bye then, Boris. You saved the very worst until last

Does it get any madder than that? Has it ever been more deranged, more delusional? For a full hour, hacks and flunkies gathered outside a committee room in Westminster, queuing up to bag a seat for a two hour-long interrogation of the no-longer prime minister.

As that hour ticked down, more than a dozen members of the government resigned, including five who went at once, electing to share a letter, possibly to save paper – but mainly, let’s be honest, for the retweets.

By 2.58pm, with two minutes to go, it remained entirely unclear whether the prime minister would turn up, or if he did, whether he would still be prime minister at all.

But then he did arrive, and then it got really odd. For two full hours, Johnson sat there, answering questions. Questions on the manufacture of British fertilisers, on the purchase of new types of tank, on the lack of a plan for fuel duty on electric cars.

As he sat there, Johnson was the only person in the room not checking his phone – rendering him, quite possibly, the only person in the country unaware that his government was collapsing around him.

On it went, all afternoon – give or take. And every 10 minutes or so, another one went. At one point, it fell to the Labour MP Meg Hillier to update him on exactly how many members of his government he’d lost. He didn’t have a clue.

And it wasn’t just resignation letters either. His MPs were stampeding over one another to publish their letters of no confidence in him. At one point, Huw Merriman, the MP for Bexhill and Battle leaned forward in his chair, looked the prime minister in his eye and tapped on his iPad. At this point, his own letter of no confidence appeared on his Twitter feed. Oh, the sheer very, very low-budget drama of it all.

As the prime minister sat there answering questions on such things as future energy supply, members of his cabinet, including the chancellor who’s been in the job for under a day, were letting it be known that they were coming together to wait in 10 Downing Street for the prime minister to get back, when they would tell him he must resign.

Eventually, this reality was put to Johnson by the Labour MP Darren Jones. It seemed only fair. He was, at this point, quite possibly the least informed person in the entire country on the subject of his own future. It was an act of kindness in its way. The prime minister has been ambushed in 10 Downing Street once before. This time, there was not going to be any cake.

He began the session seeming somewhat broken. What was the point of it all, really? But an hour or so in he had returned to his true self. The bloviating, the over-talking, reducing events to a joke as a means to minimise exposure. When asked to name the author of a damning quote from a past Boris Johnson column about leaders who cling on for their own self-preservation, he paused, puffed out his cheeks and answered: “Was it Cicero? Was it Nero? Montesquieu?”

It was pure Johnson. It was also, genuinely, very funny indeed. It was this kind of thing that got him where he was today, which is to say, hopelessly out of his depth and rushing out with the tide.

Entirely predictably, the most serious stuff was the most risible of all. Is there any point, right now, being furiously angry at his deliberate minimisation of the actions of his now ex-deputy chief whip, Chris Pincher?

Pincher got drunk and groped two people. According to the victim’s own account, which had been read out to Johnson in the House of Commons hours earlier: “He grabbed my arse then moved his hand around to my groin.”

Johnson’s view on the matter was that: “Westminster has a drink problem. Some people can’t take their drink.”

He knows it’s not an answer. Lots of people can’t take their drink. Not many of them commit, as a consequence, what would very much appear to be sexual assault. And those that do, in this specific example, seem to believe that drink is a valid excuse, which it very obviously isn’t.

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He also couldn’t prevent himself from issuing a particularly dim threat about seeking to call a general election if his party moves against him. This chatter has set Westminster pulses racing, but it is utterly futile. If Johnson called an election to save himself, he would have to fight it with no party to lead.

Though it is hard to see, none of this stuff matters anymore. The curtain has come down on the most dreary vaudeville act British politics has ever known.

The most tiresome cameo in British politics is over. And despite being 20 years or more long, it really does feel like a cameo, as it leaves nothing of any value behind – only destruction. Johnson has kicked the sandcastles down and that’s it. He will doubtless be described as a “consequential” politician, but the consequences are the same as having a pigeon fly into your kitchen.

We await only the precise choreography, the pictures for the documentaries. When that gets round to happening, it will only become more clear that it was all over a very long time ago.