There was a better turnout of conservative deputies this week that the last, and they cheered when Boris Johnson arrived at the Despatch Box.
But the cheers sounded slightly ironic, and Sir Keir Starmer seemed much happier than usual, and also more dangerous.
Instead of the pious North London human rights lawyer, we had the man in the pub, enjoying the opportunity to poke fun at a regular talker whose claim that “no one would have to sell their house to pay for the attention.” it had just exploded.
“No, Mr. President,” protested Boris Johnson, giving a long answer that included the words “deferred payment” but did not seem to completely eliminate the charge against him.
“I see they showed up this week,” Sir Keir said as he smiled at the Tory benches. He soon commented on the prime minister in a relaxed tone, “who knows if he will make it to the next election,” and wondered, “if he does,” how he expects “someone to take him and his promises seriously.”
Sponsored by an attorney! Johnson doesn’t like having to testify about his own seriousness, so he set out to show that Sir Keir can’t be taken seriously, having campaigned against HS2.
“Mr. President,” Sir Keir replied with another infuriating smile, “I think you have lost your place in your notes again.”
He soon added the question a journalist asked Johnson after Peppa Pig’s speech: “Is everything okay, Prime Minister?”
How Johnson would have enjoyed this, if the roles had been reversed, and he was the one who cited the most hurtful taunts of recent days.
As it was, he only had to absorb the punishment and indicate with his smiling demeanor that he was not in the least hurt by these taunts.
Next to the prime minister sat Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, wearing a black mask that made it impossible to see what he thought of his leader’s difficulties.