“LIKE some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity,” said Boris Johnson yesterday in his classic, colourful style, stealing a picturesque idea from Gulliver’s Travels.

In Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel, the traveller washes up on a beach and, exhausted, falls asleep. While he kips, the little people of Lilliput come out and tie him down, even stringing out his famous hair.

When he escapes, pinging off the guy-ropes, he discovers that the little people are embroiled in an intractable row: should you break a boiled egg at the big end or the small end? The row was dividing families and tearing up the country, and was every bit as serious as Brexit.

But the guy-ropes of Parliamentary mathematics that tied Theresa May bind Mr Johnson even tighter. A Conservative MP who faces sexual assault charges has been suspended, reducing Mr Johnson’s working majority to just two, even with the Democratic Unionists’ backing.

And on August 1, a by-election in Brecon could be won by the Lib Dems which would reduce the majority to just one.

So all that has changed since Britain last failed to leave the EU is the personality of the guy at the top – will his celebrity stardust, his blond burst of energy, be enough to enable Britain to shake off the shackles of doubt that dogged Mrs May’s grey days? Here are two contrasting scenarios…

Sunlit uplands

For the first time, a Prime Minister who actually believes in Brexit is bouncing with optimism and positivity, leading the UK in negotiations with the EU. Seeing that Mr Johnson is super-serious about leaving on October 31, the EU is obliged to negotiate to save Ireland and its own, fragile economy from the ravages of a no-deal, so it gives Mr Johnson some concessions.

They may only be cosmetic, but they are enough to allow Mr Johnson to use his showmanship to steer the withdrawal deal through Parliament. He has the European Research Group (ERG) – who destroyed Mrs May – on side and he has been astute enough to win over a handful Labour MPs in leave seats.

This busts the guy-ropes, and Britain successfully leaves on October 31 with a deal – which also slays the spectre of the Brexit Party. Mr Johnson calls a spring election to give him a mandate to negotiate Britain’s long-term relationship with the EU. He wins a landslide – a BoJo bonanza.

Stormy times

The EU cannot alter the backstop – it cannot cut one of its own members, the Republic of Ireland, adrift. It cannot give Mr Johnson meaningful changes – even as he plunges towards a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

But, although he has the ERG’s support, he has created another group of Tory rebels centred on former Chancellor Philip Hammond who believe that no-deal would be catastrophically disastrous to Britain and the EU. Because of this group’s opposition, Mr Johnson cannot get no-deal through the Commons and, because of last week’s vote on prorogation, he cannot suspend Parliament and crash out.

He is unable to move – the guy-ropes have got him. As he lies there in mid-October, he faces a vote of confidence, which he knows he will lose. His defeat will allow the formation of a coalition government, led by Keir Starmer, Philip Hammond or Yvette Cooper, which will come together to call a second referendum.

As this could mean the end of Brexit, Mr Johnson calls a general election in a bid to ping off the guy-ropes tying him down.

It is a huge gamble which, if he loses, means he would fail even to serve 119 days and so become the shortest lived Prime Minister in British history. Personally, it is a huge gamble: in his own seat, Uxbridge and South Ruslip, he has a majority of just 5,034 – the smallest majority of any Prime Minister since Labour’s Ramsay McDonald in 1924. His constituency borders on the proposed third Heathrow runway – previously, Mr Johnson said he would lie with his constituents in front of the bulldozers to stop it, but has now reversed that position. He would be vulnerable to a well-organised remain-orientated Lib Dem or Green.

But in the country as a whole, he sees Labour as unelectable – it is a party dedicated to in-fighting without a coherent Brexit policy and which has alienated its moderate supporters by expelling good-natured people like the former North-West Durham MP Hilary Armstrong.

The gamble, then, is taking on Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Mr Johnson will use his golden-topped stardust to present himself as the only candidate who can save Brexit. Even though in places like the North-East, voters may prefer to entrust Mr Farage to deliver rather than the Tories, Mr Johnson dreams that the rest of the country gives him the numbers to finally break free of the guy-ropes.

From this distance, it seems impossible to predict an outcome, although anyone who has struggled through Gulliver's Travels will known that when Gulliver initially breaks off the little ropes he is given a hero’s welcome, but he is soon condemned as a traitor, sentenced to blinding and has to flee across the sea to save himself.