THERE was never going to be the prospect the maverick Boris Johnson would suddenly mutate into your typical po-faced Foreign Secretary who would never say anything disobliging, even if true, about a dodgy ally with whom the UK was desperate to maintain good relations.

So why did Theresa May, who knows all about Boris, give him this highly sensitive job?

Did she want a gust of fresh air to blow through the fusty corridors of the Foreign Office? Or did she want to enrage former Justice Secretary Michael Gove whose savage remarks about Boris cut him out of the Tory leadership race?

I don’t think so - May is too wise a politician to indulge in such childish fourth-form revenge. Now, within weeks of the arrival of the new administration, May has had to inflict a sharp rap on Boris’s knuckles for his critical comments about the Saudi Arabian regime, which you don’t expect a Foreign Secretary to utter.

Boris didn’t apologise, everyone would know how meaningless and hollow that would have been. Although admittedly his subsequent remarks in Bahrain were far more conciliatory.

May can hardly complain. She appointed him, knowing what sort of man he was.

l IS it too fanciful to suggest that there might be something a little sinister about the Chinese purchase of the Chequers local pub, the Plough? The Chinese are notorious for placing electronic bugs. Surely, it would be a huge advantage to them to listen into conversations involving the Prime Minister, and also visitors to Chequers when they call in for a pint.

Once, in a Beijing hotel we were being briefed by a British diplomat about Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s activities the following day. Suddenly, the diplomat raised his voice to what seemed an unnecessarily high volume, before dropping it down again. The diplomat rightly assumed that the Chinese would be bugging this meeting. Within minutes, a Chinese official phoned in to perform a U-turn and agree with the diplomat’s view.

It may not be practical to put up in the Chequers pub notices bearing the old wartime slogan, ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ but drinkers should nevertheless be careful what they say.

l IS the Labour Party staggering towards its doom? That may be a melodramatic question, but the fact remains that there is a growing number of level-headed Labour MPs who fear for the party’s future under its present leadership.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from veteran Labour backbencher David Winnick, who is certainly not given to sensationalism. He said, in reference to the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election: “It was an appalling result for Labour. If we were to continue in this way then the indications are 2020 will be an electoral disaster and the possibility of a Labour government very remote indeed.”

Strong stuff. But nonetheless, the true feelings of many worried Labour MPs. Labour’s slide to fourth at Sleaford, below even Ukip and the Liberal Democrats, was certainly a grim result for them. What they should do, but are probably incapable of, is to reduce drastically the influence of the trade unions in the leadership election process, and give MPs a far bigger say.

That way, they would get a leader that backbenchers would generally support and not one who is despised by large swathes of them.

Meanwhile, there were jitters at Conservative HQ that Sleaford might replicate the disaster for them at Richmond Park. There was a huge sigh of relief when the Tories won comfortably.