IN the end, the motion to make Boris Johnson the first Prime Minister to be investigated over accusations that he deliberately misled Parliament went through without even a vote.

There must have been a big Conservative rebellion on the cards as the backbenchers, who loyally did the PM’s bidding and voted to save Owen Paterson and to continue to allow sewage to flow into rivers, told the whips they would not want to be seen to be defending the indefensible once more.

It opens up a whole new level of jeopardy for Mr Johnson. He has to negotiate his way through the police investigation, which may well result in more embarrassing fines for breaking his own regulations; then he has to get through the Sue Gray report, which must surely criticise the boozy Downing Street culture that set in under his watch; and finally now there will be the Parliamentary investigation into claims he misled MPs.

He clearly did. The only question seems to be whether it was deliberate or not.

So this won’t just go away. It’s going to drag on for weeks and weeks, with the PM becoming increasingly diminished over time – yesterday’s Government backtrack suggests he doesn’t have huge support on his own benches.

Let’s hope he’s not called on to make any big, controversial decisions in this time: if a deadly Covid variant emerges, would anyone listen to his pleadings for restrictions; if Putin and his new ballistic missiles cross the red line and Nato has to get involved (please, God, no), would he be able to mount a strong and trustworthy response?

Some say partygate is a nonsense over speeding tickets, but now the country is beginning to suffer.