THERE is a lot of speculation about whether the lockdown drinks party at 10 Downing Street will be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Boris Johnson. Will this moment of hypocrisy and disregard for ordinary people – unmatched since Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake!” – be the thing that pushes the patience of Tory backbenchers too far?

Maybe, but let’s interrogate the “camel’s back” metaphor a little further. I’ve been at the smelly end of a camel a few times on my travels, and I cannot imagine a camel would allow that final straw to remain on its back for long.

Proud, thrawn, intractable, obstreperous creatures, camels are the spikey thistles of the animal kingdom. They do not play nicely with others. They have no bovine instinct to bend their necks to the conquering yoke. They will kick, spit, bite and buck – do whatever it takes – before allowing their backs to be broken. No one molests a camel with impunity.

The question we must each ask ourselves is, “What will be my final straw?”

Perhaps we are about to find out. ­Misgovernment abounds. Covid runs rampant, the NHS is dangerously stretched, corruption and cynicism are rife at the highest levels, and the self-destructive madness of Brexit – what kind of ­cretinous government blockades its own ports and strangles its own trade? – continues to harm the economy, push up prices, and put the squeeze on millions of families. This ­winter of discontent is worse than anything in the 1970s. These failings should be enough to keep the Tories out of power for a generation.

That is not all. There is an all-out attack on civil liberties, the rule of law, judicial ­independence, devolution, the neutrality of the civil ­service, the integrity of elections, and ­parliamentary ­democracy itself.

A heavy wave of repressive legislation is ­heading our way, all of which seeks to ­consolidate the Tory regime in a position of ­unlimited, unaccountable, irremovable power – the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Nationality and Borders Bill, the Elections Bill, the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. The sorry list of creeping authoritarianism goes on.

Most, if not all, of the objectionable provisions of these bills would be unconstitutional in any country with a halfway decent constitution; but we have no such protection. The loopholes and vulnerabilities arising from the lack of a written constitution are now being exploited with a new and ruthless vigour.

Constitutional reform used to be a niche ­interest for a few wonkish weirdos like me, broadly of a centre-left persuasion. Not ­anymore. Now, increasingly, people from across the political spectrum – ordinary people, people with proper jobs, real-life friends and hobbies; people who did not obsess about constitutional issues before; people you might meet in the pub or even at the golf club – are coming to realise that something is amiss.

They are beginning to see that problem is ­bigger than just this Prime Minister or this ­Government. It is structural, institutional, ­constitutional. It is a problem at the heart of the nature of the British state – a defunct dynastic imperial state that, without the Empire that made it, no longer has a purpose.

Even some people who served the ­British state in positions of responsibility are ­reaching their “enough is enough” point. This week, a former British diplomat – Alexandra Hall Hall – ­announced her epiphany with an ­excellent ­article in the Byline Times. She went beyond mere personal and partisan criticism, ­identifying a profound constitutional malaise.

Others, unfortunately, struggle to take this step. Sir Keir Starmer seems to think we need only a new Government, not a new state. He ­began his keynote speech in Birmingham by diving headfirst into what can only be described as flag-shagging Brit-Nattery. His policy desires are in the right place. Security, prosperity and respect are not bad starting points for a new ­social contract. A common settlement for the common good is desperately needed.

Yet he remains wedded to the corpse of the British state, the Union, “this nation”, “this country” – understood in the British ­singular. Labour’s social democracy is not a failed ­project, but Britain is. This “New Britain” blah-de-blah is just a waste of air. Just call it England. Starmer’s brand of patriotic “Blue Labourism” could do well in England.

Meanwhile, Douglas Ross, leader of the ­Scottish Tories, has turned against Boris ­Johnson, but not against the ill-constituted ­British state itself. Ross has spent his political career defending the systems, the structures, the values, and the party, that put Johnson in ­power. The irony here is that a moderate, ­sensible party of the centre-right (a party perhaps more in the tradition of European Christian Democrats) could do well in an independent Scotland. If they could accept an independent Scotland as a normal country, Scotland would accept them as a normal party. Then we could all move on.

Chris Hanlon is this week’s guest on the TNT show. We’ll be talking devo-max at 7pm on Wednesday