There’s no chance he’ll do the honorable thing, but Boris must go.

That there is a debate about whether Boris Johnson can continue in office, after being fined for violating confinement laws; attending events that he denied existed, he expressed anger or excused himself with implausible explanations; and having been shown to have duped Parliament, he shows the complete erosion of standards in our public life.

The lockdown laws were unprecedented and were imposed by the prime minister himself. “Look her in the eye,” warned a government poster showing a woman with a fan, “and tell her you never break the rules.” Millions missed funerals, births and precious time with their families. “The rules were followed at all times” was just a misleading claim made by Johnson in Parliament.

When Matt Hancock resigned as health secretary after breaching not laws but guidelines, the prime minister took credit for his departure. Asked if Hancock’s conduct had undermined public health messages, Johnson said: “It has, and that’s why when I saw the story on Friday, we had a new secretary of state for health on Saturday.”

There is no chance of the prime minister doing the honorable thing. He has spent a career overlooking crises and waiting for something else to emerge. In this case he hopes that the war in the Ukraine – in which it must be said that he has had a great performance – will save him. And Conservative MPs, apart from the fact that the House of Commons is in recess, don’t know what to do. But yesterday one predicted: “He will stand and destroy the house like Samson breaking down the walls of the temple.”

If Johnson does not resign, the responsibility for deciding his fate rests with the cabinet and Conservative MPs. But for now, both are hesitant to act. Johnson’s loyalists will continue to defend him, as many MPs await the final list of revelations: the prime minister has been fined for the birthday meeting in the Cabinet Room, but police have yet to decide on other events he attended, notably in the Downing Street Flat. Other MPs know enough to want to act against you, but will wait to pick their time to maximize their chances of success. Among them, many are pessimistic and even dismissive about the weakness, as they see it, of their colleagues.

Many arguments are swirling as loyalists seek to muddy the waters. Few stand up to scrutiny. We can’t change PM, they say, in wartime. But Britain is not at war. In fact, when we were, during the two world wars and the first Gulf War, we changed prime ministers. And anyway, under any other Tory leader, British policy in the Ukraine would continue unchanged.

Nor is it true that the fine is comparable to a fine for speeding, or to past occasions when ministers did not resign after being fined. The prime minister imposed these extraordinary laws, implored us to comply with them, broke them himself, and then lied about it. It is also not correct to argue that the fine does not confirm guilt: by paying the fine and not contesting it, the PM is accepting the verdict of the police.

There are all sorts of calculations for Conservative MPs about the upcoming local elections, who could replace Johnson and what agenda he should pursue. But sooner rather than later those deputies will have to face the only calculation that matters. Is it right that the country is run by a man who has broken laws he imposed on others and then lied about doing so? To that question, in all honesty, there can only be one answer.

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