BORIS JOHNSON’S position is as indefensible as the behaviour of his Downing Street staff who have made the building at the heart of the British government the most fined address for Covid law-breaking in the country.

Not only has Mr Johnson presided over that building but he has become the first Prime Minister – ever, for centuries – to receive a police fine while in office.

And not just for breaking any old law, but for breaking a law he wrote. A law that was needed to stop the spread of a deadly contagion. A law that he daily spoke about the importance of adhering to. A law which required exemplary leadership to encourage others to follow.

A law which millions of British people did stick to at great personal cost. They watched their loved ones die through care home windows, and then they were not able to attend their funerals – when, by contrast, the Prime Minister was regularly attending illegal office leaving dos in Downing Street.

The most haunting image of the pandemic is that of the 95-year-old Queen, with a black mask wrapped around her face, sitting all alone, hunched at the end of a pew, at the funeral of her husband of 74 years – and yet from the Gray report we learn that the last civil servant left Downing Street after a party at 4.20am that same morning.

It does not look good.

Mr Johnson explained that he was not there when many of the worst excesses took place, but even so he was the one in charge. He set the tone and the culture of the place where law-breaking became endemic, and where cleaners and security guards were belittled.

At those events where he was present, he explained that he was just passing through them, stopping briefly at what he considered to be a work event to give a toast and then moving on – but surely any leader could see that the wine, the nibbles and the karaoke machine were leading towards a full blown party, and any leader worth his salt should surely have stepped in to remind his people of the rules.

Even the civil servants themselves knew they were breaking the law. The younger ones were emboldened to attend the parties because of the culture created by Mr Johnson; the older ones, we learn from the Gray report, passed on advice about not waving wine bottles at the TV cameras, and one of the most senior ones messaged about how they had “got away” with a party the night before.

“It didn’t occur to me that it was breaking the law,” said Mr Johnson at the press conference. He was the only one in all Downing Street, it seems, to whom it did not occur.

The latest polling suggests that three-fifths of British people think Mr Johnson should resign, which ties in with the snap judgement on the Echo’s website which found two-thirds wanted him to go.

But he won’t. He seems not to have any shame.

And, for all his bumbling persona, he has played the affair quite brilliantly to ensure he clings to office. When the clamour for him to resign from his own side was at its loudest in January, he punted it into the long grass by calling in Sue Gray to do a lengthy official report. The distance in time has allowed the head of steam to fade away, and Tory MPs have seen the most plausible replacement – Richmond’s Rishi Sunak – fizzle out as he has been trapped by his own fine and his wife’s unfeasible wealth.

So today, in the Commons, we had the unedifying sight of the British Prime Minister being taunted by Opposition MPs with lurid comments like the one from Andy McDonald, the Middlesbrough MP, which features on today’s front page, and then later at the press conference being asked time and again if he were a liar.

Of course he said no – but everyone knows he had his fingers crossed behind his back.

Partygate won’t go away, as there is still the Parliamentary investigation to look forward to. And it can’t go away as long as Mr Johnson remains in office – he is a reminder of the double standards that we have lived through.

And this is where the real danger lies. Those double standards have created a greater cynicism about politics than ever before. Talk of having a liar for leader, of there being one rule for the privileged few and another for everyone else, corrupts the soul of the nation, and Mr Johnson is responsible for that.

Yet lawyerly Labour is still unable to breakthrough.

Let’s hope a new Covid variant doesn’t require another lockdown, or the unpredictable Russian war require emergency measures, because the Prime Minister could not enforce them as he is such a damaged, and indefensible, leader.