AT a press conference after the publication of the Sue Gray report, Boris Johnson offered a characteristically arrogant defence of his refusal to resign over the failures it highlighted.

“No matter how bitter and painful the conclusions [of the Sue Gray report] may be, or how humbling they are, I’ve got to keep moving forward,” he said.

The Prime Minister seems to believe there is something noble about his unwillingness to accept responsibility for partygate.

In his mind, he remains in post not out of naked self-interest, but a sense of duty. What a load of nonsense. It’s a similarly idiotic flow of logic to that which Douglas Ross has tried – with enormous difficulty – to use to explain his many U-turns over Johnson’s fitness for office.

His latest is that the Prime Minister should only be forced out once the war in Ukraine is over. As if the guy who couldn’t get through a working day without some lockdown-flouting wine is somehow integral to the war effort.

The message from Johnson and his allies over recent days has been clear – it’s time to move on. That might be what they would like to happen but there is no sign as yet that it will.

Yesterday’s newspapers were filled with fresh revelations about partygate. The Sunday Times reported that the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, held a second law-breaking party in the Number 10 flat on her husband’s birthday on June 19, 2020.

This claim has re-ignited criticism of both the Metropolitan Police and Sue Gray’s failure to properly investigate the “Abba Party” held to celebrate the departure of former aide Dominic Cummings.

The allegations centre around a series of previously unseen text messages, offered by an aide to both the police and the Gray investigation, that apparently weren’t followed up by either.

The messages are said to show that Carrie Johnson was in the Number 10 flat with several friends on the night of the Prime Minister’s birthday and that Boris Johnson went up to the flat while they were there. At the time, the rules stated that events for two or more people indoors were banned except for work purposes.

Both this, and the fresh allegations that Number 10 pressured Sue Gray to alter her report before publication, made an uncomfortable Sunday morning interview round for the beleaguered Tory representative sent out to defend the latest scandal.

It was a point made by Mark Harper MP, who said he was “fed up” with his colleagues being asked to “go out on the television day after day and saying things that are frankly ridiculous and defending the indefensible”.

There has been understandable anger at the way in which Boris Johnson has clung on when any other leader would have been long gone by now. But this amazing feat of political resilience isn’t without its risks.

Poll after poll demonstrates two things very clearly. Firstly, the Conservative Party look set to lose most of the seats they gained at the last General Election. Secondly, a majority of the public believes Boris Johnson has lied over partygate and should resign.

By refusing to do the decent and honourable thing, Johnson has given this scandal a long shelf life and has cemented his own shoddy conduct in the minds of voters.

The inaction of his colleagues and their simpering, cowardly, blind loyalty to the lawbreaking Prime Minister means his death spiral has now become theirs too.

Not only are many of his sycophantic defenders set to lose their seats at the next election, they are also destined for months, if not years, of ritual humiliation in the process. They will continue to defend the indefensible because the devil doesn’t offer a buy-back policy once you’ve sold him your soul.

Their only hope is that the lone voices of dissent within the party can convince enough colleagues to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

There has been a steady trickle of publicly announced letters in the days since the Sue Gray report was published but will it be enough?

Some believe we are edging towards the threshold, pointing out that when Theresa May faced a confidence vote, double the numbers of letters submitted had been to those that had been made public.

Operation “Save Big Dog” has been successful so far, but at what cost to the Conservative Party? Nobody believes the Prime Minister’s phony assertion that he has been “humbled” by partygate. He is incapable of change. If he somehow makes it through this scandal it will only be a matter of time before he embroils his party in another. That simple fact must strike fear into the hearts of all those who have supported him throughout the partygate saga.

When it comes to Boris Johnson, their task of defending the indefensible will never be over.

If it pains them to do it, if they feel embarrassed by it or damaged by association with this shameless Prime Minister, then that’s no less than they deserve for their cowardice.