BORIS Johnson’s regime continues to mesmerise as it resembles an animated Cold War Steve photo-montage. The multiple failures, scandals and weekly exposure seems to make no difference. The more they fail the more their polling rises. On it goes. In all this Sir Keir Starmer recedes into the background terrified of his shadow and diminishing in his party and the “country’s” estimations on a daily basis. He appears to have nothing to say about anything at all.

In the Cabinet there’s a lot going on. It’s been a busy week.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister – who we’re told is responsible for “countering the push for independence” – said the Prime Minister’s focus was completely on recovery from the pandemic “for the lifetime of this parliament” and that he “can’t see” Boris Johnson granting a new referendum on Scottish independence before the next general election.

Asked in an interview with the Daily Telegraph whether there was “any circumstance” in which Johnson would approve a referendum before a May 2024 election, Gove said: “I don’t think so.”

Asked whether his position was that “there will be no referendum before the 2024 election”, he replied: “I can’t see it.”

It was the same week they announced they would be abandoning Equal Votes for English Laws. It was the same week they flew the kite for any future referendum to be based on an ethnic not a civic basis.

But what does any of this even mean? It’s all random and incoherent. If its long been suspected that the “positive case for the Union” is as elusive as ever, this was confirmed in a bizarre leaked commentary from a Lords Committee where Alex Massie was asked to look into his crystal ball to see where the Union and Scotland will be in 10 years time. His answer was telling. He suggested that the Union would fail and that something he called “the principle of consent” exists and supersedes elections (aka democracy) and that the main Unionist tactic must be to deny a referendum (because they’d lose).

At the centre of this shambles is the unfortunate Matt Hancock who has been under sustained fire from his own side with Dominic Cummings gunning for him with a slow-release leakage of the Best Of Hancock’s Incompetence. Hancock’s fondling his “aide” the millionaire Gina Coladangelo, who was the communications director at the fluffy lifestyle emporium Oliver Bonas, but much more importantly is also a director and major shareholder at lobbying firm Luther Pendragon, which offers clients a “deep understanding of the mechanics of government”.

Nothing is quite as it seems but the double-standards of the red-tops ignoring a mountain of political corruption but go large on infidelity tells you everything about Britain’s tabloid culture and the failure of political accountability.

If Hancock is the Idiot’s Idiot, his colleague Michel Gove has also been at the very heart of this week’s rolling action. If anything Hancock’s fumblings were a useful distraction from Gove’s latest scandal, the use of pandemic research contract to test attitudes to the Union.

The Herald reported: “UK ministers used a pandemic research contract deemed ‘unlawful’ by the High Court while at the centre of a government ‘institutionalised cronyism’ row to carry out work on attitudes to the Union in Scotland, it has emerged.

“Court documents show an urgent request to test attitudes to the Union was made by the office of Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove – under the cover of the Covid-19 contract given to Public First, which was meant to inform ‘vital’ advice to shape the UK government’s pandemic response.”

This is astonishing, or perhaps not.

And while the Conservatives continue to escape criminal prosecution and seem indeed to be maintaining their electoral popularity in England, they do so at a cost.

Last week Nicola Sturgeon railed at Gove after he vowed her “reckless” dream of a fresh independence referendum will not happen until 2024. The First Minister branded the Cabinet minister “sneering and arrogant” after he insisted there is no chance of another vote before the next general election. Sturgeon said the UK Government was merely “building support for independence” by refusing to authorise a referendum.

“Every time we hear that kind of sneering, arrogant condescension from Michael Gove – or whatever UK Government minister it may be – completely refusing to accept Scottish democracy, actually the more they just build support for independence,” she said.

Secondly the internal instability of this most corrupt and dysfunctional government is turning in on itself – leaking and smearing each other as the shambles lurches from one scandal to the next.

How is this possible?

Three things combine. Much of the media is largely pliant and useless; scandal has become just so much part of the everyday landscape it is utterly normalised, people expect corruption, disgrace and failure in high office; and vaccinations.

I was lucky enough to get my second dose this week and the vaccination roll-out is the only thing this government has got right. Let’s not focus too much on the fact that it’s really the NHS’s success? But that’s just the point, once the vaccination has been completely rolled out it’s usefulness as a political shield to deflect from the multiple disaster zones of Johnson’s regime diminishes.

As we go to print Downing Street has issued a statement from the Prime Minister saying he had accepted Matt Hancock’s apology for breaching social distancing guidelines and “considers the matter closed”.

AFTER being asked by reporters why Hancock remained in post, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “You’ve seen the health secretary’s statement, so I would point you to that. I don’t really have anything further to add. The health secretary set out that he accepted he had breached the social distancing guidelines and he has apologised for that. The Prime Minister has accepted the health secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed.”

Asked whether Boris Johnson had “full confidence” in Hancock, the spokesman replied: “Yes.”

For most people the issue wasn’t so much a “breach of social distancing” as ongoing issues about chumocracy, cronyism and the lack of accountability in office for – well – anything. The Labour party chair, Anneliese Dodds, has responded to Matt Hancock’s statement and once again called for him to resign or be sacked.

“He set the rules. He admits he broke them. He has to go,” she said.

Finally, he did go last night. Sleaze is normal in the Tory regime. But he couldn’t cling on any longer.

However, the fact remains that the Tories have successfully dragged the very idea of standards in public office so low they are virtually invisible.