IT is often a sign that things are spiralling terminally out of control for a Prime Minister when a colleague makes “helpful” interventions that can be turned into a weapon to launch another attack against him.

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, is not the only member of the party to call for Boris Johnson to stand down, but Jacob Rees Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, belittled him in the most patronising fashion on television by calling him a “lightweight figure”. The nationalists are using this ungracious slight to push the case for independence from an increasingly unpopular Conservative government sitting in London.

The Tees Valley Tories have big decisions to make. Mr Johnson won them their seats – only seven months ago on the Quayside in Hartlepool he was cheered by voters as another Labour seat fell – whereas the party led by David Cameron or Theresa May did not.

If – or when – Mr Johnson goes, would a Conservative Party led by Liz Truss, Jeremy Hunt or Priti Patel reach out to red wall voters in the way Mr Johnson did? It looks unlikely.

So what of the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who performed a canny disappearing act on Wednesday and emerged 225 miles away in a factory in Devon? Eight hours later, he eventually tweeted rather lukewarm support for his embattled boss.

Super-wealthy Mr Sunak, our own Richmond MP, is certainly human, clean cut, sober, organised and presentable. But in his rapid rise, have voters learned enough about his politics? He was yesterday described as an “unashamed Thatcherite” – would that appeal to North East voters? And does he have the charisma to reach out to them in the way wor Boris once did?