BORIS JOHNSON has an amazing ability to send his opponents mad with rage.

His problem just now is that so many of those opponents are on his own side.

Boris Johnson now needs to work some magic and start delivering on his election promises

There were yawning gaps on the benches behind him at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, as Conservative MPs demonstrated their anger by refusing to turn out to support him.

They are furious with the PM for his mishandling of the whole question of MPs and second jobs.

The Conservative Party in Parliament is split down the middle, with older MPs — many of whom have large outside earnings — angry with him for failing to uphold their traditional right to make extra money.

Meanwhile, new MPs — elected in 2019 in the Red Wall seats captured from Labour — are equally cross with him for failing to crack down on what looks to them and many of their voters like pure greed.

Both groups complain that on this divisive issue, Mr Johnson wants — as he ­himself might put it — to have his cake and eat it. The Red Wall holds the key to the Prime Minister’s future.

Even his most bitter critics would concede that at the General Election in December 2019, he showed a remarkable ability to convince Labour ­voters that they would be ­better off under a government led by himself. That achievement is now in danger.

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Lack of progress to level up towns

This week’s U-turn on HS2, the failure to stop migrants pouring across the Channel in record numbers, and the lack of visible progress to level up the neglected Red Wall towns in the north of England, all leave the PM exposed to the charge that he is a leader who does not keep his promises.

No wonder he spent Thursday touring the North by train, in a bid to persuade voters that his new rail plan is better than the one it replaced.

As a salesman, Mr Johnson has no rival. But by the time of the next General Election, in 2023 or 2024, voters will be looking for tangible evidence of delivery.

In the Red Wall seats, left to rot for generations by both main parties, there must be palpable signs of revival.

The state of the local high street will be crucial. Is it just boarded-up shops and pound stores, or is it once again somewhere people can enjoy walking down and feel proud of?

Are new industries filling the void left by the collapse of the old ones? Have the local bus and train services actually got better?

        He is denounced as a ­coward, a liar, a lightweight and an incompetent, who brings shame on his country and deserves to be sacked forthwith. 

                Andrew Gimson               

At the last election, Mr Johnson led a bold and ­successful march into Labour territory. He now has to show he can hold that territory, and his Red Wall MPs will be holding him to that.

It is certainly too soon to write him off. It is perfectly normal for a leader’s poll rating to sink, as his have, halfway through a Parliament.

The verdict at the end at the ballot box is what matters. And the PM continues to be ­fortunate in the calibre of his opponents. Each time he goes through a sticky patch, they move in for the kill and attack him in the most unmeasured terms.

He is denounced as a ­coward, a liar, a lightweight and an incompetent, who brings shame on his country and deserves to be sacked forthwith.

All this sounds, to normal, level-headed people who are not obsessed by politics, ever so slightly hysterical.

Of course, Mr Johnson has his faults. Which politician doesn’t? But can he be quite as bad as his critics seek to paint him? And are they quite as virtuous as they seek to paint themselves?

Many of those critics are still incandescent with rage at the leading part Mr Johnson played in getting Brexit done. They are not as scandalised by his morality as they ­pretend to be. What they really cannot ­forgive is his success.

Takes trouble to mess up his hair

To them, it seems monstrously unfair, an offence against the natural order of things, that they — despite exchanging among themselves high-minded opinions all day, every day — have been defeated by a man who doesn’t even take the trouble to brush his hair.

Mr Johnson takes, indeed, the trouble to make a mess of his hair, if by some accident it is that morning neat and tidy.

By this means he signals to his supporters that he has not gone native. That he is not yet another priggish member of the establishment who looks down his or her nose at lesser people out in the back of beyond who don’t know how to behave.

But there comes a point when oratory and promises and assuring people you’re on their side is not enough.

Mr Johnson now has to come good on his fine words, and particularly on his promise to level up the neglected Red Wall seats.

Andrew Gimson is the author of Boris: The Making Of The Prime Minister.

GettyMr Johnson has to come good on his fine words, and particularly on his promise to level up the neglected Red Wall seats '/ '

Andrew Gimson is the author of Boris: The Making Of The Prime Minister

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