IN the end Boris’s resignation speech was an overblown, highly staged anti-climax. MPs were understandably in a state of some excitement when the former Foreign Secretary invoked Commons rules to demand time for a personal statement explaining his decision to quit last weekend.

By custom, this would not be interrupted or heckled – perfect for a man intent on delivering a very precise message on Brexit or chucking his hat into the ring as a replacement for Theresa May.

And then, just to heighten the tension, the former London Mayor chose a seat very close to the one used by Sir Geoffrey Howe in 1990, when he quit over “foghorn diplomacy” towards Europe by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

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Twenty-eight years ago, Geoffrey Howe told MPs in his resignation speech: “The tragedy is that the Prime Minister’s perceived attitude towards Europe is running increasingly serious risks for the future of our nation.

“It’s rather like sending our opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find … their bats have been broken by the team captain.”

After 18 minutes of polite savagery, witnessed in the chamber by a white-faced and furious Margaret Thatcher, he concluded: “The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long.”

A few days later Michael Heseltine launched a Tory leadership bid and although Maggie won the election that followed, it was by too small a margin to secure outright victory and the men in grey suits soon arrived to shuffle her out of No 10. So is history about to repeat itself?

Mebbes aye, mebbes naw.

First of all, Boris is no Geoffrey. Dennis Healey famously said that an attack by Geoffrey Howe was “like being savaged by a dead sheep”.

The man was no great orator. But he was no gold-digger either. Perhaps the gravity of Howe’s resignation speech arose from the fact that he was so clearly ending his political career and throwing himself on the tracks so someone else might successfully challenge the Iron Lady.

Boris is not so selfless. Like Geoffrey Howe, he gathered a bunch of supporters for his Commons speech – including “big beasts” like former Brexit negotiator David Davis and minor whippets like Scottish Conservative MP Ross Thomson. Like Geoffrey Howe (who had also just quit as Foreign Secretary) Boris’s grievance was over Europe. But unlike that electrifying speech back in the 1990s, Boris’s speech left the Commons neither shaken nor stirred.

Johnson’s main point was that Brexit is no longer Brexit because the principles contained in the Lancaster House speech, delivered by a much more bullish Theresa May in January 2017, have since been surrendered. “In the 18 months that have followed, it’s as if a sense of fog of self-doubt has descended,” he said.

Boris contrasted “the bright certainties of Lancaster House” to the Chequers agreement that was all but torn asunder by his Brexiteer colleagues in the Commons earlier this week. “Lancaster House said laws shall once again be made in Westminster ... but Chequers makes us rule-takers,” he added.

It was familiar pie in the sky stuff, without the customary Boris swagger or humour. But even the relative seriousness of his demeanour couldn’t disguise the problem at the heart of Boris’s big beef – the sacred Lancaster House speech was nothing more than “a mish-mash of incompatible goals combined with airy rhetoric” as one commentator described it at the time.

A lucky bag of assorted goodies the EU had no intention of handing over. A wish-list drawn up in those innocent rose-tinted days, when the negotiating process had not yet begun and Tory politicians had not confronted the terrible truth Remainers could easily perceive.

Namely, that whatever “deal” might keep the Tory party united on Europe has not a hope in hell of being rubber-stamped by Brussels. The Lancaster House speech was Cloud Cuckoo stuff, yet Boris is trying to fluff it up now as a weighty, historical text.

This is just fanciful nonsense. So you must imagine there is another motive at play.

The rise and rise of Boris Johnson. And indeed, the closing section of his speech put BoJo squarely in play as a possible successor to Theresa May – when the time is right. “Let us aim for that glorious vision of Lancaster House – not that miserable, permanent limbo of Chequers,” he said. “The UK’s admirers are expecting us to do what we said and to take back control.”

NOW all of this would be vaguely amusing if it wasn’t so very serious.

While Boris was fanning himself in the Chamber, all sorts of serious questions about his behaviour were being asked and evaded by the BBC.

Firstly, Boris has broken UK Government rules which ban former Cabinet ministers from starting new jobs till three months after leaving office. But of course, rules are for ordinary mortals, not Boris. So he returned to his role as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday arguing that Britain must believe in itself after Brexit. The former foreign secretary failed to get permission from the appointments watchdog, Acoba, to do that – but clearly he doesn’t care. Boris is skint you see.

Last year it was reported that the then foreign secretary was struggling to get by on his £142,467 salary and wanted to get back to earning “serious money” as a writer. Asked about his outside earnings as London Mayor, Johnson argued that his Telegraph pay – then £250,000 – was “chicken feed”. and said: “I don’t see why, on a Sunday morning, I shouldn’t knock off an article.”

The trouble is, the appointments watchdog does.

But despite clearly breaking the rules, Boris will get away with a slap on the wrists because Acoba doesn’t have the power to mount a criminal prosecution of former ministers who flout its advice. And let’s face it, since Boris seems to have got away with involvement in the rule-breaking Vote Leave campaign, why on Earth would he worry about a toothless Commons watchdog?

It’s the mark of the man, though. He’s a man without principles – and that fact is becoming daily more apparent, even to Leave voters.

There’s another wee snag for Boris.

Love her or loathe her, Theresa May is made of pretty strong stuff. No matter what gets thrown at her, she comes up smiling that same, eerie smile.

Yesterday, she shrugged off the latest PMQs assault, body-swerved Boris by instead appearing before the Commons Liaison Committee to rebut questions from each Commons committee chair with mind-numbing but masterly evasion and finished the day at the backbenchers’ 1922 committee, performing so well that an MP with a letter demanding her resignation actually withdrew it.

As SNP MP Angus MacNeil put it; “You’re a survivor, Prime Minister.

“I often think of Gloria Gaynor when I look at you.”

So Theresa won’t be easy to shift.

But personalities aside, some inconvenient truths remain.

The Chequers deal is dead.

The Tories appearance of unity is temporary.

And they are lagging behind an imploding Labour Party in the opinion polls.

If Boris becomes the solution to Tory splits over Europe, every political rival will benefit including the SNP. If Theresa May remains she will drag her party down. So no matter what semblance of unity is constructed over this long, hot summer, Scotland’s moment of choice is surely getting nearer.