The prime minister's life and death question is not whether Downing Street and Cabinet Office parties were illegal and should be prosecuted.
It's also unclear whether he organised all or any of the gatherings.
No. The question is whether he can persuade his MPs to fix the destructive party culture rather than join it.
A loophole exists in the legality of the various parties, albeit it is unclear if it was used during the parties or just as a defence afterwards.
It's just that the official criteria for vital businesses that cannot operate from home didn't specifically mention "no parties."
Because the more broad national standards - which everyone understood - said "no parties", the writers of the corporate guidelines assumed no manager would think parties were permissible.
But a clever lawyer would exploit the omission.
To be clear, I have spoken to the heads of our largest corporations and institutions, and they all agree they didn't need to be told "no parties." They read it. And that there were parties in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office is "outrageous", "shocking", "unacceptable".
"The prime minister and Downing Street have tarnished the UK," said the CEO of one of our major firms. "We're a joke worldwide," said another. "How can we market 'global Britain' now?" asked a third.
A criminal prosecution against anyone suspected of being responsible for or attending government parties will be more difficult if the guidance for vital enterprises is omitted.
That's why the PM and his ministers insist he thought it was a "business event" despite the presence of beer, sausage rolls, his wife Carrie Johnson and non-ministerial political aides.
Are the PM and senior Downing Street staff exempt?
Not legality, but relevance. Probity.
The senior civil servant looking into the parties, Sue Gray, seems to agree that the 20 May party and others were inappropriate, went against civil service policy, and slandered Whitehall and the government.
I'm assured she'll make that explicit in both the summary and the entire report, which may or may not be published.
"It's not looking good for the PM," a colleague said.
As dreadful for the PM is the despair of many of his backbench MP colleagues, who have the authority to remove him as party leader and hence remove him as PM.
Many of them have been disgruntled with him for a long time, not least because welfare cuts and tax increases have slashed their take-home pay. But what really bothers them is voter rage, as evidenced by hundreds of emails and official party focus groups.
"I've never seen worse focus groups," a top official claimed.
Many Tory MPs were convinced when the PM indicated on Wednesday that he should have asked his staff to return inside as soon as he joined the drinking and merriment in the Downing Street garden after six on 20 May 2020.
It was too late for him to blame someone else and define himself as the disinfector. So said a few of his MPs.
He joined the party rather than shutting it down, so he can now position himself as cleaning up Downing Street.
In truth, the practically daily discoveries of Covid rule-breaking do not make him a victim of inherited culture. His inability to recognise the corrupted institution he swaggered over is shown.
The disgruntled former minister Caroline Nokes is printing invitations to her 50th birthday party with the message "Come to a 'work event'".
"He won't be leading us into the next election," said another long-serving Tory MP.
MPs disagree on his leave date. Except for his ministers, few MPs see a way back for him.