WITH the temperature in London heading towards 32 degrees it seemed wise to head underground. Not to the Tube, which was as hellish as ever, but to a place where one of history’s greatest last stands took place, the Churchill War Rooms.

The warren from which the Prime Minister and his aides directed the fightback against Hitler is a temple of functionality, with a place for everything and everything in its place. With round the clock working the din must have deafened, even if the notoriously noise sensitive Churchill had ordered the typewriters muted as much as possible. On Sunday, though, it was cool and peaceful, the only sounds the whisper of audio guides and the shuffle of tourist feet. An ideal place for prime ministerial contemplation, but not for the current occupant of Number Ten. Even for the Tories, Theresa May setting up shop in the Churchill War Rooms would be a metaphor too far.

Have you heard? It is war again, dear boy, war. With a clutch of ministers and a couple of party vice-chairs gone, the talk of the Westminster steamie is of a “guerilla” campaign against Mrs May and her plan for Brexit drawn up at Chequers. “This is not going to stop,” said one unnamed armchair general. “We want the Chequers plan killed, and we want it now.”

Even if she makes it through to the summer recess in a fortnight’s time Mrs May faces a knife-edge vote in the autumn on her EU deal, and the numbers do not look promising for her. The pressure on the PM, far from going away, could intensify. All this as her erstwhile Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has gone quiet, too quiet. You know things are bad when Donald Trump, a president whose White House has been in a state of chaos since day one, says “turmoil” reigns in Britain.

While one might despise Mrs May’s politics, and the disastrous impact her party’s internal squabbles over Europe have had on the UK – if ever a party could be accused of not getting on with the day job it is the Conservatives – it is hard not to feel a little admiration for this Prime Minister. She has suffered appalling setbacks, some admittedly of her own making, such as calling a snap General Election and losing her party’s parliamentary majority. Her set piece speech to party conference was the stuff of nightmares. She is mocked as robotic, cold, a hopeless communicator, the greyest of grey women. Yet day after day, criticism after criticism, plot after plot, she turns up and gets to work. How many of her rivals could say the same?

Certainly not Boris Johnson, who left office this week as he entered it, without a thought for anything but his own career. He did achieve one thing in that he was the first Cabinet minister vain enough to be photographed signing his resignation letter. One marvels at his restraint in not calling in a portrait painter. Mr Johnson generally goes about his business as if he is one day destined to be the subject of great exhibitions and doorstop biographies, of the kind he has himself written on Churchill. His fate, however, is to forever be a cautionary tale about the dangers of allowing overwhelming arrogance and a cast-iron sense of entitlement to flourish unchecked.

He has excelled himself in one area only, that of self-promotion. In some cases, that of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran on trumped-up charges, he actively made a difficult situation worse by wrongly stating her reasons for being in the country.

On the whole, Mr Johnson represents a lot of what is wrong with too many British politicians. From a privileged background, he had the best private education money could buy, strolled into a great job in journalism, then into politics where he rose (almost) to the top and stayed there, despite behaviour that would have seen another minister sacked. Even now he is being seen by some in his party as the only man who can rescue Brexit. And so he carries on, to where we do not yet know. To borrow the imagery of which he is fond, Mr Johnson is the ultimate floater of British politics, impossible to flush away.

He is the closest thing to Donald Trump and other populist politicians that Britain has. It is little wonder that the US President considers him a friend. Given the choice between tea with Mrs May or Mr Johnson, it is clear which way the President’s cookie would crumble. The admiration is mutual. Contrast this with Mrs May’s more reserved attitude towards the US President, that awkward hand hold in Washington aside, which has included telling him off for retweeting videos posted by a far right group. The special relationship has been in sore need of rebalancing since the damage done by Tony Blair over Iraq, and Mrs May has gone further than her predecessors in achieving this.

Politicians are becoming more representative of society, but as the continued presence of Mr Johnson and his ilk shows, change is not happening quickly enough. He is of a generation and background that treats politics as if it was a grand parlour game, something for chaps to play, with no consequences for anyone else. Mrs May gives the impression of seeing politics as public service. In that she is in the same mould as Nicola Sturgeon and Angela Merkel. Unlike the previous woman who did her job, she is a feminist and proud of it. Scotland’s First Minister and Mrs May could probably trade a tale or two of what it has been like making their way in a man’s world. Then again, as the FM has said, Mrs May is not the trading tales kind. As Ms Sturgeon once put it: “It’s like she’s reading from a script than having a conversation.”

We can all agree that Mrs May is never going to trouble Sandra Bullock for the role of Miss Congeniality. But at this moment, she is still looking like the best bet to achieve a Brexit that does the least damage to the economy. By accident or design, through determination or sheer bloody mindedness, she has held on, keeping the vacancy filled and the job out of the hands of others. It is not the stuff of history, but in time we may yet be grateful for her efforts.