He also got boot-licking ministers like James Cleverly and Nadine Dorries to go out and defend him to the media - without much success - so when his chancellor Sunak distanced himself from the PM's remarks yesterday it was a clear sign of how contentious they really were.
"She was a valued colleague, I very much enjoyed working with her and I'm sorry to see her leave government, I'll miss working with her.
"With regard to the comments, being honest, I wouldn't have said it and I'm glad the prime minister clarified what he meant."
And asked if Johnson should apologise, he said: "That's for the prime minister to decide."
What a week it has been. After making the comments on Monday, Johnson reiterated them on Wednesday in an edition of PMQs after Starmer criticised him and said he was fuelling conspiracy theories with the remarks. On Thursday, it appeared he had backed down, as he told reporters that the Labour leader "had nothing to do personally with those decisions".
"I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole," he said.
Whatever he says now, it looks like the damage has more than already been done.
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