IT is barely six months since Boris Johnson won a convincing election victory, yet already his Government has acquired a reputation for incompetence and instant U-turns. Despite an early bounce in the polls at the start of the Covid-19 emergency, Tory support has waned in the aftermath of the Dominic Cummings affair.

Labour under the lugubrious Sir Keir are now neck and neck with the Conservatives in popularity, without actually having done anything.

And it is Boris himself who is getting the blame. One might think that the affable mop-head might have cheered up the population during lockdown. Yet Johnson’s personal poll ratings have nose-dived during this month.

A poll of more than 2000 people last week found that 55% thought the PM had handled the coronavirus crisis badly. His overall approval rating is now -7 compared to +38 only in April – a truly catastrophic judgment.

Even the normally slavish Tory press has begun to abandon the Good Ship Boris. The Daily Mail gleefully ran a headline announcing: “Boris Johnson’s Government has the worst approval rating in the WORLD for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic” (their caps). Worse, The Mail has kept up a steady fire against Dominic Cummings, demanding his head over the infamous midnight drive to Durham. Something has gone very wrong with Project Boris.

Not to put too fine a point on it, all the well-known personal failings of Boris de Pfeffel Johnson have been piteously exposed during the Covid-19 crisis. As we know from his time as mayor of London, Johnson is a hands-off type of guy – the front man good for PR gestures while letting his hand-picked technocrats get on with the job of actually running things in a competent fashion.

Whatever you think of that as a managerial model, it obviously breaks down in time of a major crisis such as … er, a pandemic. At such a moment, the country needs a leader who can think on his or her feet, move decisively, and (above all) motivate people and government.

Alas, whatever Boris Johnson is, he is not a leader for a crisis. He is showman, a politician prone to giving the crowd what it thinks it wants rather than what it needs. He is a politician crafted for the television age with its ephemeral attention span, a politician who changes the script every five minutes. He is no Winston Churchill, and certainly no Clement Attlee or Ernie Bevin keeping the home fires burning. Rather, Johnson is a lazy fool who is out of his depth – and has been caught out.

Why did the British establishment elevate Boris to Number 10? Simple: they needed a front man to win the General Election decisively; see off Jeremy Corbyn and his ideological vision of a non-consumerist, non-“rat race” society; and deliver Brexit quickly. In effect, the very antithesis of dull Mr Corbyn to grab the TV headlines. And that is what they got.

Who cares if Johnson fled from being interviewed by Andrew Neil because it would expose how ignorant and ill-prepared he was to run a modern nation? After all, there wouldn’t be an existential crisis in the next six months, would there?

Besides, everyone knew that Boris was only too happy to pursue his private dalliances while letting the real politicians exert power in the background. He would be our Ronnie Reagan, chairman of the board, while the hard men got on with the real business of governing.

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Cummings would “get Brexit done”, the Tory Party would divvy up the spoils of office, and the hedge fund managers who bankrolled both Johnson’s leadership campaign and the Tory election war chest would make squillions from the ensuing economic games. All this might have come to pass except for a microscopic virus jumping the species barrier in far off Wuhan.

Here’s the rub: the medical emergency has exposed more than the fact that Boris Johnson is a third-rate politician. It has also revealed that behind him stands (or wobbles) a third-rate Cabinet. In contrast, Churchill’s war Cabinet was stuffed with towering personalities such as Bevin or Beaverbrook (who conjured up Spitfires for the Battle of Britain).

FOR advisers, Churchill had Keynes to run the economy, Beveridge to invent the post-war welfare state; and Cherwell who had more real science in his pinkie than Dominic Cummings will ever comprehend. And while Churchill made glorious speeches, the war was actually won by a trio of brilliant warlords: Brooke, Portal and Cunningham.

Yet 75 years from now, will anyone remember smug Dominic Raab, hapless Matt Hancock or crazy Priti Patel? Can you even name the Secretary for Defence?

If this shower is remembered at all, it will be for their dithering and incoherence during a life-threatening plague that they were too incompetent to deal with. Socially cocooned by their private school, Oxbridge, privileged backgrounds, the Cabinet refused to believe “their England” could fall victim to a foreign plague. Witness Boris in March boasting he had been to a hospital with coronavirus victims yet happily shaken hands.

Witness a lockdown instituted later than other countries. Witness the decanting of the elderly into care home hell. Witness the refusal to restrict airline arrivals from abroad followed by a confusing U-turn.

Witness the “world-beating” testing app that would transform the situation … till another U-turn told us the app was useless. Witness the PPE scandal that could have been avoided if an earlier NHS drill had been acted on.

Witness the U-turn on school meals in England following a campaign led by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. All this as the death toll mounted steadily to 50,000 (“officially”). Why this unique incompetence? Normally, the British parliamentary system could survive being run by a happy-go-lucky “chairman of the board” and a bunch of witness subordinates, provided the civil service machine functioned.

But Dominic Cummings has reduced the senior civil service in Whitehall to a conflict zone, with key staff being fired or driven into retirement. Everyone is protecting their own jobs rather than managing the crisis, which partly explains the lack of strategic direction.

Last week, the Tory backbench 1922 Committee met to discuss the governmental crisis and castigate ministerial incompetence. Again, the normal response would be for the men in grey suits to plot how to defenestrate the PM.

But there’s an obvious problem. Last year Boris and his Brexiteer chums expelled from the party not just the leading Europhiles but anyone willing to stand up for themselves.

This Stalinist purge was followed by Dominic Cummings orchestrating the firing of Chancellor Sajid Javid, when the latter refused to be dictated to from Number 10. As a result, the talent pool left in the Tory parliamentary team is vastly depleted compared to any time since the Second World War. We are being governed – literally – by over-promoted fools.

I weep for England. Fortunately, north of the Border there is an escape hatch via independence. The FM no longer needs to kowtow to the ludicrous Boris cabal. With support for independence breasting 54%, the time has come to exercise the sovereign will of the Scottish people. Scotland is not for turning, even if Boris is – most days.