HERE we are again this morning, less than 20 days after Boris Johnson survived a vote of confidence even though 148 of his own MPs voted against him, wondering how he can possibly survive.

The by-election defeat in Devon was the worst for the Tories ever, but perhaps for us the more significant loss was Wakefield. Thirteen months ago, Mr Johnson took the Labour seat of Hartlepool and showed that he was still a winner in the “red wall” areas, but now the first of his gains has gone back to Labour.

Although the demographics of Wakefield are very different from the Tees Valley and County Durham, there is now electoral proof that the tide has turned.

There must be at least three reasons why our own largely loyal Conservative MPs must be deeply worried.

Firstly, the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden, previously as loyal as a poodle, shows how deep the growing dismay at Mr Johnson goes.

Secondly, this antipathy is as much about personality as it is policy. Voters still want to be levelled up. They still back the people of Ukraine. But they are sick of Mr Johnson’s law-breaking and lack of probity.

Thirdly, with Richmond’s Rishi Sunak still out of the running, there doesn't seem to be an alternative – there is no one to reach out to places like the North East as Mr Johnson once did, and there doesn’t even seem to be anyone at all brave enough to put up against the Prime Minister.

But there is one consolation for our MPs: imagine how much worse it would be if Labour had a rip-roaringly charismatic free thinker tearing into them.