Is Boris Johnson such a good foreign secretary that the rules of cabinet collective responsibility simply need not apply to him?
Is he such a skilled diplomat that the rules must bend to excuse him from a vote on the vital issue of our country's future aviation strategy?
Is this country so in need of his talents that the Prime Minister must routinely excuse or ignore his outbursts, gaffes, disloyalty and controversies?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding and emphatic no. So why is the foreign secretary still in his job? There is a view in Westminster that the PM's precarious position makes Johnson unsackable. This is an understandable perspective, but it is a cowardly one – and it makes Theresa May look embarrassingly weak.
The PM cannot meet every Johnson gaffe with a shrug and a smile. “Boris is Boris,” she says, or “Boris has strong views.” The question is, does she? If the PM wanted him out, she could have fired him when he made a joke about dead Libyans or when he bungled the case of a British-Iranian citizen detained in Iran, or when he told a private dinner that he'd rather Donald Trumpwas negotiating Brexit – or when he reportedly said “f**k business” when told of manufacturers' concerns about a no-deal Brexit.
She could also have held him to yesterday's whipped vote on Heathrow expansion and made it clear that if he wanted to vote against (as he promised his constituents he would) then he should follow the example of another London Tory MP, Greg Hands, who resigned as a trade minister last week in order to oppose a third runway at Heathrow.
Instead, the PM takes her beatings and concedes a little more of her authority each and every time the hapless foreign secretary undermines her or embarrasses the government. Why? Because she fears his influence in the Commons, from where he could rally Brexiters, command the front pages and shore up his support among Tory members.
Johnson could make like difficult for May, it's true, but she is the Prime Minister and she could make life difficult for him, too. He isn't the darling of the party that he once was and he does not command huge support among MPs. May should be bold, and let Boris be Boris from the backbenches.