As Boris Johnson fights for his political life this week, Rishi Sunak may also be looking nervously over his shoulder.
The current Prime Minister will not be entirely unhappy to see his predecessor’s struggles back in the public eye, given the troubled relationship between the two men.
But there are danger points for Mr Sunak too as Westminster’s attentions turn back to the legacy of “Partygate” with the privileges committee investigation into claims Mr Johnson lied to the House of Commons.
It should not be forgotten that Mr Sunak, then the Chancellor, was fined by police just like Mr Johnson for attending an illegal gathering in 10 Downing Street.
He considered quitting the Cabinet after being found to have broken the law, despite insisting he had no idea that a meeting in No 10 was doubling up as the then-Prime Minister’s birthday party.
It remains possible that as part of his defence, Mr Johnson will adduce new evidence that Mr Sunak too engaged in behaviour which was at best legally dubious.
Blowback for Tories
The Conservatives’ slide in the polls began in late 2021, partly due to the emergence of media reports about lockdown parties, and the Tories have never fully recovered.
Any time that Partygate is back in the headlines will remind voters of what many considered a breach of trust, and potentially prevent Mr Sunak from making further progress in winning over the public.
It is perfectly possible that Mr Johnson will in the end be fully cleared of lying to Parliament, if the privileges committee decides that he only misled MPs inadvertently.
That would prove a huge boost to his hopes of a comeback to the political front line, restoring his status as the most likely challenger if Mr Sunak does start to stumble and the Tories remain on track for a landslde election defeat.
In the event that the privileges committee rules Mr Johnson should be temporarily suspended from Parliament, the House of Commons as a whole would have to vote on whether to endorse the punishment.
The Prime Minister has signalled that he would not intervene to direct Conservative MPs on how to vote, leaving him open to claims he is hanging his predecessor out to dry.
Any vote would surely reopen old wounds within the party, with dozens of pro-Johnson and anti-Johnson MPs fully entrenched in their views and vitriolic about the other group.
Sucking up oxygen
Mr Sunak appears already to have already cleared the Government’s schedule in order to avoid being overshadowed by Mr Johnson’s committee hearing.
If the drama is restricted to this week, ministers can return to normal business with no harm done. But if it drags on further there is a real risk that Mr Sunak’s agenda is drowned out by the circus that inevitably follows Mr Johnson.