THE scale of the rebellion shows the scale of Boris Johnson’s difficulties.

Although there was a point of principle at stake – should the state ever take away people’s freedoms and create a second class of unvaccinated citizen – the Conservative rebels could have been talked around by a Prime Minister who has their confidence. The state does take away people’s freedoms in that it taxes them and it forces them to drive at 30mph in a built-up area. The imposition of a negative lateral flow test on anyone wishing to join a crowd is only a little more invasive than forcing people to drive slowly past a school – it is what sensible people are doing to protect each other.

But Mr Johnson doesn’t have their confidence, and he cannot now say that he is over the worst. On Thursday comes a by-election in Owen Paterson’s formerly safe Tory seat – Mr Johnson cannot afford to lose it.

And after that comes the report into “partygate” at No 10. Only Mr Johnson in the whole country now thinks there wasn’t a party last December under his roof, and the Prime Minister will need to wriggle hard if he is not going to be further damaged by the report.

Normal political rules do not apply to Mr Johnson so he could Tiggerishly regroup in the New Year and bounce back, but with the virus growing as fast as the backbench rebellion, it does now feel as if we have passed peak Johnson.