When Boris Johnson first became Prime Minister, I spent a lot of time talking to people who worked with him during his time as Mayor of London.
“If you have a half-hour meeting with him,” one told me, “you need to get any business done in the first five minutes.
After that, his attention is gone and you have to kind of pull him back from looking out the window.”
Tory staffers at City Hall talked about the difficulty of getting him through a briefing, or explaining something complicated, or time-keeping.
“It’s not that he’s not intelligent,” they’d say, “He’s a bright guy. It’s the attention span. It’s just not there.”
That was brutally, mercilessly, exposed this week at Prime Minister’s Questions, where Boris Johnson was eviscerated by Keir Starmer.
Mr Johnson unravelled spectacularly. I don’t know what he’s spent the summer doing – apart from going camping in a big house – but it has not been his homework.
The detail was non-existent or inaccurate. The gags were flat. Temper frayed. Not in control.
And the support from the Tory backbenches was weak. They looked everywhere rather than their rapidly scrambling leader.
Even the normally vocal ones were quiet.
This is a bad sign.
Mr Johnson relies on the panto aspect of PMQs and that’s gone ’til November.
The second telling moment was a slight hesitation from Mr Starmer.
Not from any lack of poise or preparation, but the realisation about what was in front of him.
Mr Starmer worked methodically. If it was a boxing match, they say, it would have been stopped. Actually, that’s wrong.
If it was a boxing match it wouldn’t have even been started.
You can see the hallmarks of desperation setting in.
Tory newspapers are mysteriously coming across stories designed to take the gloss off Mr Johnson’s chancellor Rishi Sunak, who many tip for the top job.
Mr Johnson is not the PM for serious times and it has been nothing but serious since he took over.
First the floods, then the pandemic and there is no relief in sight.
Next up is the end of furlough, Brexit and whatever the winter brings in terms of Covid-19.
This performance felt like a watershed – it has finally dawned on people that Mr Johnson is not up to the job.
We put a clown in charge and the joke’s not funny any more. The polls agree, too.
There are some in Labour who say they need to do more, that competence alone will not win for them but I’m not sure that’s true.
Speaking to some backbench Tories this week, they told me they are resigned to the fact Mr Johnson will not lead them into the next election.
That’s quick, even by Tory standards, but they do have a history of making leaders they don’t like disappear.
A strange week in Westminster then, where the other topic of conversation was the BBC deciding to rebalance its comedy output and put on more right-wing comedians.
Tune in at 12pm on a Wednesday if that’s your thing.
Top of the bill. Catch him while you can. Limited season, by the sounds of things.