“What we need, in a sense, is Boris back with his bounce, with his mojo.”
A blink and you would’ve missed this comment from Brexiteer and Tory rebel Steve Baker in his interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge today.
It comes after a challenging month, if not a challenging year, for the prime minister.
A summer of coronavirus U-turns has morphed into an autumn of anguish.
And with the polls now going in the wrong direction, once-loyal backbench Tories are finding their voices.
Their concerns will reach a crescendo this week with a debate on coronavirus tomorrow and a vote on Wednesday.
Some simply worry that parliament is being cut out of the decision-making process.
But others are angry at what they see as governmental overreach.
Reacting to a suggestion students could be stopped from going home for Christmas, Telford MP Lucy Allan tweeted: “The state is out of control.”
The threat of even tighter restrictions also looms large.
Senior backbencher Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said the next step is “probably” a “complete lockdown and it would be intolerable if parliament didn’t have a vote and debate”.
Lockdown sceptics now also feel they have a friend in a high place in the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
Mr Sunak’s declaration this week that the country must learn to “live without fear” has turned into something of a de facto slogan for those opposed to more restrictions.
Indeed, five minutes before Steve Baker called for the prime minister to regain his mojo, he – unprompted – cited Mr Sunak’s apparent call to arms, adding: “The government has been frightening people into compliance and it hasn’t been working.”
Revisiting one of his favourite phrases, senior Tory Robert Halfon also said of the chancellor this week: “He doesn’t just talk about the clothes pegs, he provides a washing line.”
It’s all a far cry from February, when Mr Sunak had just two years of ministerial experience behind him as he replaced his former boss, Sajid Javid.
Despite being tipped for power from the beginning, MPs joked of “babycino” arriving at the Treasury; a “chancellor in name only” indebted to the PM and sure to dance to his tune.
Long-serving Tory MP Sir Robert Syms attributed Mr Javid’s resignation to the merge of his personal advisors at Number 10.
“Within these constraints, Rishi has carved out more independence than Sajid achieved,” he said.
Others wonder when ‘independence’ morphs into the age-old split between a PM and his neighbour in Downing Street.
Tongues wagged across Westminster this week when Mr Johnson chose to visit a police training centre in Northamptonshire instead of being in the commons for the chancellor’s statement on the economy.
Be in no doubt: 10 months after a thumping election win and in the midst of a pandemic, we are a million miles away from the world of leadership challenges.
But that doesn’t mean the politics of winter and the festive season won’t be perilous for the man in charge.
The prime minister’s plan to forge a path between protecting the economy and suppressing the virus risks leaving everyone unhappy. He may need more than bounce and mojo to put that right.