IT will take more than the departure of an amoral clown to kill conservatism but for now the “natural rulers” are on the ropes and it’s time to finish them off.

Boris Johnson has become a liability to the Tories and although he may cling on to power, he is a lame duck Prime Minister, who will already be talking to publishers about an autobiography.

Paradoxically, Johnson is the lucky one, Prince Andrew’s public life is already over. He is knee-deep in lawyers and trying to tap his mum for money to buy off accusations of sexual abuse.

The last few days have driven a six-inch nail into the coffin of deference. The ­royal family, the role of the prime ­minister, and the democratic legitimacy of the ­Westminster parliament have all been weakened or undermined by recent events.

Most observers of social trends will say that deference has been in decline for ­decades and certainly since the end of the Second World War but since the outbreak of Covid respect for politicians has fallen off a cliff.

Throughout much of the 20th century levels of trust in politicians and levels of fondness for the royal family were ­significantly higher than they are today. A major YouGov poll published at the end of last year showed that a decline in political trust is undermining liberal ­democracy in the UK. In 1944, just one in three British people (35%) saw politicians as merely “out for themselves”, by 2014 that number had risen to 48% and recently the figure was 63%. Well over half the population think politicians are “out for themselves”.

There have always been rogue MPs chased out of office, and moments when scandal at Westminster tested the ­patience of the electorate, but in the past there was a settled belief that the political ­system was largely honourable.

Over time the glare of the media and the rise of social scepticism has sawn away at the foundations of trust, the ­expenses scandal worsened it and now the latest rash of revelations about ­Downing Street booze bashes has worsened perceptions still further.

People of almost every political ­persuasion have been taken aback by the sheer gall of Downing Street’s response to lockdown restrictions. Every Scottish party leader including Douglas Ross has ­expressed no confidence in Johnson and the vast majority of Scotland’s MSPs, ­including a battalion of Tories, have called for his resignation.

Maybe as senior Tories have openly ­implied, Scotland doesn’t matter but when it comes to the heart and the soul of the Conservative Party money really matters.

With that in mind, I remain convinced that it is procurement and not garden ­parties that is the most flagrant failure of the embattled Tories and the one that will hurt them most.

The hastily arranged procurement ­systems have been one of the most ­obvious sources of public grievance since the earliest days of the pandemic. In the eye of the storm of a global health crisis, the lowest expectation that people had is that politicians was that they would work speedily and efficiently to address failures with the national health system, not least equipment to protect front-line staff.

Most reasonable people expected a hands-to-the-pump response on ­Covid not a chaotic free-for-all mired in ­incompetence and corruption.

As far back as April 22, 2021 the ­research group Transparency ­International UK ­exposed that the way the UK ­Government handled bids for supplying personal ­protective equipment (PPE) saying it “appeared to be partisan and systemically biased in favour of those with political access”.

The humiliating story of Michelle Mone pursuing a contract prior to the ­incorporation of the company she was involved with, is just one in a whole ­catalogue of abuse.

Mone’s latest business escapade ­involved the use of a “VIP lane” which allowed some providers direct access to government, underlining the structural biases in a system that should have been a byword for decency and transparency.

At the very moment that Johnson ­wriggled in parliament, the Government’s use of a “VIP lane” to hand out lucrative Covid contracts to two particular firms were declared unlawful. A High Court judgement established that billions of pounds worth of deals were handed to ­associates of ministers and officials ­during the early months of the pandemic. It is a judgement arguably more ­harmful to the reputation of the Tory Party than Johnson’s excruciating display in ­parliament.

ONE of the enduring myths of political history, and one that has persisted throughout my lifetime is the deferential notion that the Tories are good at business and so better trusted with the economy. It is a ruse they are trying again by promoting the multi-millionaire banker Rishi Sunak.

Scratch below the surface and you find that the business-friendly Tories are ­untrustworthy and often incompetent ­entrepreneurs. They despise pubic money being spent unless they are the beneficiaries. If you totalled the public funds used to bail out the banking sector and added the gross misadventures of Covid procurement, you would never trust a free ­marketeer ever again.

A National Audit Office report unintentionally provided material for a forthcoming series of Yes Minister should it ever be recommissioned. In one of the most visible cases, only a fraction of 400 000 gowns ordered from a Turkish t-shirt manufacturer arrived. When they did ­arrive they were late, despite the Royal Air Force being sent to collect them, and they were found to be unusable. A Miami jewellery ­designer, awarded a £250m contract for PPE, was found to have paid £21m to a consultant to broker the deal. And my personal favourites is the pest control company with net assets of £19,000 that was given a £108m contract for PPE. If you can’t get a line about draining the swamp into that particular script you should give up.

An opportunity awaits both Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and the independence movement in Scotland, to continually ­remind voters of the egregious corruption that has been exposed during the pandemic. Whatever you thought in the past, the Tories are the party of shady business. They are not fit to govern.

Deference is an odd condition. I first came to understand it at Primary School in a class that included a few kids from what was euphemistically known as “the country”, they were usually the children of farm workers from the villages scattered around Perth.

Many of them still lived in tied cottages and were dependent for their existence on landowners and the patronage of the Big Hoose. It is a system of rural dependency that still exists in pockets of Scotland to this day, and is one of the last vestiges of feudalism that the Conservative Party fought hard to retain. I can still remember a conversation in the context of a 1963 by-election in the constituency of Kinross and West Perthshire when a class-mate told me that his family had been instructed to vote for Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, who had left the Lords to win a commons seat.

MY only other existing memory of that by election was that the TV satirist ­Willie Rushton stood as a joke candidate but what I had forgotten, if I ever knew, was that Douglas-Home who was Eton educated and spoke with “bools in his mooth” was representing the right-wing Unionist Party, and not the Conservatives.

The context and outcome of that ­election tells you how much Scotland has changed in the intervening years.

Although you can still find servile ­submission, even in urban communities and within some families, the idea of ­voting in compliance with the wishes of another is thankfully in retreat.

There are still Scots who think men in chalk-stripe suits do business better and there are still those that vote in deference to their own parents but those certainties are changing and the electoral map of the UK shows that substantial change is ­tantalisingly close.