The tsunami of scandals Boris Johnson has already survived

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Back in 2016, Mr Johnson knocked off a limerick in which he implied Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan enjoyed carnal relations with a goat. Such lampooning of the leader of an important Nato ally might have wrecked the career of a normal MP, but just a few months later Theresa May appointed him foreign secretary.

He has spent his adult life getting in and out of outrageous scrapes. This knack for survival may convince him that if MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the coming weeks he has a more than decent chance of winning it.

He has repeatedly demonstrated that the accepted rules of political physics do not apply to him. When Mrs May’s own premiership imploded, the now-former foreign secretary found himself in competition for the leadership with Michael Gove, whose bid fizzled out after it was revealed he had taken cocaine as a younger man.

No investigative sleuthing was required to unearth evidence of Mr Johnson’s own encounters with various grades of drugs.

Helpfully, in 2007, he had told Piers Morgan that he tried cocaine at university and remembered it “vividly”.

He carried on describing how he had smoked “quite a few” cannabis spliffs.

His familiarity with controlled substances did nothing to stop him winning the first round of the leadership contest and going on to compete against Jeremy Hunt.

It was then reported that police had arrived at the flat he shared with Carrie Symonds after “screaming, shouting and banging” was heard and a neighbour phoned 999.

Doubts among paid-up activists that Mr Johnson should take up residency in Downing Street receded as the weeks rolled on and he won two-thirds of the vote – the latest evidence of his mastery of one of the greatest arts in political alchemy, turning notoriety into electoral gold.

Throughout his life, the 57-year-old has been hit with self-generated disasters. Shortly after graduation he landed a job at The Times but was sacked amid claims he had fabricated a quote.

He promptly joined the Daily Telegraph and in 1999 was handed the editorship of The Spectator.

He didn’t relinquish this coveted position when he was elected as the MP for Henley in 2001, but it led to one of his worst imbroglios. A leader column appeared in the magazine in 2004 in the wake of the murder of Ken Bigley – the Liverpool-born engineer who was beheaded in Iraq – which claimed the people of the city “wallow” in their “victim status”.

Mr Johnson, by now the Tories’ culture and arts spokesman, apologised and even visited the city to express his remorse. He admitted that Conservative’ leader Michael Howard had given him a “kicking” – but this would not be his last run-in with the party boss.

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The MP had described claims of his affair with writer Petronella Wyatt as an “inverted pyramid of piffle”. In November 2004, when Ms Wyatt’s mother revealed that her daughter had an abortion after becoming pregnant with Mr Johnson, the Tory leader’s patience snapped and he sacked him for not telling the truth.

Still the gaffes kept coming – such as when he responded to Jamie Oliver’s crusade for healthier school dinners by reportedly asking why mothers shouldn’t “push pies through the railings”.

Mr Johnson’s brand of liberal conservatism was just what legions of Londoners wanted after two terms of Ken Livingstone and in 2008 he became mayor and continued his march towards No 10.

His sojourn as Foreign Secretary was not a glorious one. He made matters worse for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – who was imprisoned in Iran.

This didn’t stop him reaching Downing Street and at first it looked as if he remained cloaked in a scandal-dispelling forcefield.

In September 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that his advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful. Yet voters awarded Mr Johnson an 80-seat majority in December.

Likewise, the details of his alleged affair with Jennifer Arcuri – whose tech business received public funds – didn’t throw him off course.

Alas for the PM, he is now in deep trouble for two reasons. First, he is no longer a mischievous maverick but the PM. If it is established he condoned illegal parties while people couldn’t visit dying relatives he will be seen as the embodiment of an aloof elite which does not live by the rules it imposes on others. Second, MPs are worried the Boris brand is so damaged he can no longer work magic at the polls.

Mr Johnson could be forgiven for wanting to quit the political melee, but this present peril may only strengthen his appetite for the fight.

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