THE Bring Back Boris gang of Conservative MPs have become unhinged by grief.

Their memories only stretch as far back as that fateful night when Boris Johnson squatted in Number 10 as scores of his ministers published their resignation statements on Twitter.

They struggle to recall the events that preceded Johnson’s downfall. They’ve blocked out the corruption, lying and lawbreaking from their minds because that’s the best way to protect the comforting delusion they’ve been feeding themselves for so long.

Tired of simply mourning their fallen leader, they have channelled their right-wing Tory angst into the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), a new pro-Boris grassroots group.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar lays a trap for himself quizzing Humza Yousaf at FMQs

A CDO conference in Bournemouth at the weekend included such illustrious attendees as Priti Patel, Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Rumours had been swirling that the big man himself might make an appearance but Johnson must have looked at the guest list and decided the embarrassment of being included on it wasn’t worth the massage to his ego that his attendance would have brought.

Priti Patel gave the big set-piece speech of the event – which is a bit like throwing a birthday party and deciding to put your toddler in charge of the catering.

The former home secretary and Johnson loyalist had her sights firmly set on Rishi Sunak, which makes a nice change from her targeting of vulnerable children seeking asylum.

With her brain firmly set in the Bring Back Boris timeline, she blamed Rishi Sunak for all the party’s ills. Patel criticised her party colleagues who removed Johnson from power, saying that they had “turned their back on the membership and effectively broken that golden thread in terms of democracy from the bottom of the party right up to the top”.

I’ve never heard of this particular golden thread of democracy – one which means a party must blindly support a leader who has conducted themselves so poorly. But I suppose Patel would know more about it than me, given she herself benefited from it when she escaped punishment after being found to have bullied a civil servant.

She placed the blame for the Tories’ disastrous results at the English local elections on the current prime minister. When the results came in, the Tories found they were truly in worst-case scenario territory, losing 48 councils and more than 1000 councillors.

Patel accused the prime minister of presiding over a period of “managed decline” for the party.

Look, I’m no fan of Rishi Sunak.

I find his children’s TV presenter style slightly unnerving and his policy priorities utterly wrong-headed.

He is out of touch and has clearly been over-promoted. But for the Boris superfans to blame him for these results is misguided to the point of silliness.

It’s a bit like setting fire to your own house and then blaming the neighbours for not getting their garden hoses out quickly enough.

The widespread delusion we saw at the CDO conference is a bigger threat to the party’s general election prospects than Sunak’s ineptitude is.

READ MORE: Ten hours of agony was worth it for the fun and the money

Some within the party seem to be unable to understand the extent to which it has lost trust with the public, even among those who would normally support them.

The Tories’ record in government is one of failure. That record was always going to catch up with them in the end, Johnson’s destructive stint in Downing Street merely sped up a process that was already in motion.

The CDO oddballs don’t understand this. They truly believe that if only their party moved further to the right, they would win back the hearts and minds of all the people they have let down during their time in power.

Patel can bang on about returning to “Conservative values” all she likes but she needs to understand that for most people, Conservative values have become synonymous with dodgy dealing, inequality, and policies and practices designed to benefit the privileged few.

The Tories are uniquely skilled at getting rid of their leaders but at the moment the CDO is a fringe movement with no real power and no clear route to re-installing the mad king. Even if they somehow did manage to overthrow Sunak and get their man back in Number 10, what do they think would happen next?

Johnson has shown that he is completely unfit for office.

While some of his colleagues might not have come to terms with that yet, voters have long made up their minds.

It may be true that Sunak is presiding over a period of managed decline but with Boris back in charge, that decline would be faster, deeper and more brutal than anything the party can possibly imagine.

His return would hand Keir Starmer a parliamentary majority that is totally unrepresentative of the Labour leader’s own political prowess or popularity as a leader.

That fact is plain to see, but Patel and her ilk will continue with their delusion because it’s easier than accepting the part they played – and continue to play – in their party’s destruction.