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The Prime Minister hit the despatch box: HENRY DEEDES watches Boris Johnson's fighting talk at PMQs

PMQs is back. No, I don't mean back as in back after the recess. I mean back, back. As in back to its punchy old self. The session was rowdy, even if there were only 50-odd members in the chamber.

With the TV screens gone and the noisy SNP lot back in situ, there was a mano-a-mano feel about proceedings again.

As for our two main protagonists, Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer, the uneasy semi-truce to which they tentatively abided at first has now been firmly consigned to the dustbin.

Boris Johnson appeared to breach 2m rule when he strayed outside the marked exclusion zones in the House of Commons after PMQs

Gone is Sir Keir's pretence of cross-party co-operation. The arch prosecutor has switched to attack mode, painting the Government as a bunch of deluded bunglers.

Similarly, Boris has grown tired of his opponent's sanctimonious tones. Those phoney offers of diplomacy, the whole Mr Reasonable act.   

It is clear he regards Starmer as a shameless opportunist seeking to talk down the Government's achievements at every turn. And he wants everyone to know it.

Much is made of Sir Keir's lawyerly flourishes at the dispatch box. His little piece de resistance was to produce a letter he had sent to the PM offering to help him get schools to reopen.

'I did it confidentially because I didn't want to make a lot of it,' he announced in those peculiar staccato tones. 'He hasn't replied.'

As he put down the document, he placed it carefully, caressing it as though it were some item of vast historical significance.

Boris narrowed his eyes to imply this was an unseemly gambit. Tut, tut, tut. 

He'd had a long conversation about these matters with Starmer on the phone, apparently.

'He didn't offer any dissent. In fact he endorsed them,' he yelled, moving up a gear.   

'He's on better ground, firmer ground when he stands with the overwhelming majority of the British people.'

Sir Keir Starmer produced a letter he had sent to the PM offering to help him get schools to reopen and claimed 'he hasn't replied' during PMQs

Starmer moved on to the Government's test, track and trace operation which he claimed was still not up and running. Rubbish, replied Boris. Over 40,000 people had already taken part. 

The Leader of the Opposition was 'casting aspersions' on the efforts of all those who had made it happen.

For Starmer it was all about the PM's honesty. Could he be trusted with these numbers?

He mentioned that the statistics offices had queried some of the data the Government had recently published. Boris did not like that one bit. 

'I really do not see the purpose,' the PM thundered, 'of his endless attacks on public trust and confidence.'

With that, he gave the despatch box a mighty thwack. Uh-oh! Hulk mad.

'Woooo!' chorused the Labour benches. Sir Keir recoiled with OTT indignation. 

'The Prime Minister's confusing scrutiny for attacks,' he gasped.

Boris still rarely addresses the question but he's got more adept at dragging them in his direction.

When Sir Keir asked about the 'R' rate, the PM furiously turned it into an attack on his decision to ease the lockdown. 

At the Downing Street press briefing, the Prime Minister said he might 'explore the possibility' of 'travel corridors' with countries with low rates of coronavirus (pictured during PMQs)

Questioned about the farcical new voting system, which requires MPs to queue up for long periods, Boris made Starmer appear lofty by saying 'ordinary people' around the country were having to do the same everywhere. 

Another take-home from the session was how lively Labour's benches were. They were never that noisy under Jeremy Corbyn's tenure, even in a much fuller chamber. 

When Jezza was on his feet they would just sit like turnips fiddling with their telephones.

Later, the PM emerged at the Downing Street press briefing, where much discussion was given over to the Government's puzzling plans to quarantine people arriving at airports as of next Monday.

It should concern him that Home Secretary Priti Patel took a hefty kicking from her own side on the issue several hours earlier in the Commons.

Someone from the BBC asked whether we could expect a summer holiday this year. Boris said he might 'explore the possibility' of 'travel corridors' with countries with low rates of coronavirus.

This sounded mildly hopeful. Though judging by the doubtful looks on Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty's face, I wouldn't order those new Bermudas yet.

We were also given another reminder about new lockdown rules, including keeping outside gatherings to just six people.

As the PM said this, thousands were flooding into Westminster to protest over the murder of George Floyd in America, megaphones blaring all across Parliament Square.

Westminster has certainly got noisy again.

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