THE Shropshire North by-election result is deeply worrying for Boris Johnson and our own red wall MPs who must now be wondering whether their seats in the Tees Valley and County Durham are holdable.

Mr Johnson helped win them in 2019 in a way that David Cameron or Theresa May never could. Indeed, only in May, his sheer exuberance was vital to Jill Mortimer winning in Hartlepool.

But after the seismic Shropshire shock, which was caused by sleaze, over-promises, partygate and an increasingly divided party, Mr Johnson no longer looks a winner. He just looks chaotic.

Once that was his charm. He was so engagingly different from slick, soundbitten politicians. But now it seems there is no coherent, letalone “oven-ready”, plan for the Brexit aftermath or implementing “levelling up” or, indeed, for tackling Covid as we’re all thoroughly confused about whether we should be partying.

Tory backbenchers say the result will force Mr Johnson to change his ways and to build a professional team amid the chaos of Downing Street.

We all make New Year’s resolutions, but very few of us manage the profound personality change that is being demanded of the Prime Minister. How many leopards can really change their spots?

In a 1990 by-election, Margaret Thatcher lost the safe Tory seat of Eastbourne to the LibDems and six weeks later, she was gone. Mr Johnson, previously the most resilient of performers, has to hope that his booster roll-out works and the Omicron peak passes swiftly – as it could do – otherwise he could face a similar fate.