THE result of Monday night’s confidence vote seemed the near perfect outcome for the opposition parties of all shapes and sizes. The slow-motion political death of the Prime Minister is assumed to be politically ideal for just about everyone except the Tory Party. But in politics, as in life, sometimes you must be careful what you wish for.

On the day of the vote, the latest Redfield UK opinion poll placed Labour a mere four points ahead of the Tories. Pause a second to fully consider this. After all that has happened through the blunders of Brexit, the total ineptitude and widespread corruption of pandemic policy, a Prime Minister fined and publicly humiliated for blithely ignoring his own lockdown laws, and now every household in the land fearful of the next energy bill, the Tories are still a mere FOUR points behind Labour.

The conclusion is clear. Johnson is virtually the only Tory leader Labour can beat. There is no positive enthusiasm for Starmer’s staid party. They are led by a man who makes dishwater look colourful. Little wonder the biggest cheers on Monday night came from the Labour whips’ office but they were cheers of relief that the guillotine for Boris has been postponed.

The National: Boris Johnson

However, therein lies the problem. This is a stay of execution for Johnson, not a reprieve. Once the ball starts rolling down the slates it seldom stops and, having lost the confidence of more than 40% of the Tory parliamentary party and the vast majority of his backbenchers, then the overwhelming likelihood is that it will be closing time for Johnson by Christmas – they think it’s all over, it soon will be.

The Liberal Democrats are also invested in Boris as a political Harry Houdini. They have finally descended into the dead parrot status that Margaret Thatcher predicted all these years ago. The LibDems are directionless, pointless. They have lost Europe as their defining issue and have yet to find a new role. The only short-term prospect they have is to continue to pick up by-election wins because of the Tory collapse.

The only medium-term prospect of recovering to a handful of seats, is a Johnson-led Tory meltdown in a General Election. They are in the same position as Labour – go through the motions of calling for Johnson to resign but hope against hope that he somehow contrives to stay in office.

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Make no mistake, if Johnson is removed, then Tory prospects improve considerably. They do not have talent in abundance but there is a level of competence if you look hard enough. The fact that most of the likely contenders are not household names is not a disadvantage in an era where household names are held in such disdain.

It is true that his Cabinet is all now tainted with the Johnson brush and electing any one of them would be a mistake. However there are options from outside the Johnson circle – Jeremy Hunt is no fool, Penny Mordaunt could be formidable and David Davis is one of the last true parliamentarians in the House of Commons. A new Tory leader will inherit a comfortable parliamentary majority and two years in office before a General Election. After Johnson, just about anyone would appear competent, a blessed relief to the Tory faithful.

Hence the opposition dilemma of calling for Johnson to go, in the sure and certain knowledge that the best chance of unseating the government is actually if he hangs on in there and brings his party down with him. Older heads remember the lesson of 1990 when they celebrated the demise of Margaret Thatcher and then lost the election to the grey-suited John Major.

But the party which should have most to gain from Johnson being slowly roasted on a political spit is the SNP, and the country with the greatest opportunity should be Scotland. In the years since 2014, the SNP have had many mandates to progress independence but next to nothing has happened.

There has always been a reason of course – Brexit, the pandemic, war in Europe but now there is the clearest of commitments to a “no ifs no buts” referendum next year. The trouble is that there is no indication of any strategy to secure it and the clock is ticking.

But there could be no better moment to face down London than right now, when a fatally wounded Prime Minister is encircled by his many enemies. This time of maximum weakness at Westminster is precisely the moment to press Scotland’s Claim of Right.

The “Great Liberator” Daniel O’Connell, a man who understood the importance of seizing the strategic moment as well as the necessity for popular agitation, once said that “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”.

Now, nearly two centuries later, it should be a case of “Johnson’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity”.