On Wednesday, from the dungeons of his party’s sleazy quagmire, emerged raspy naughty schoolboy Boris Johnson ready to face a now Covid free Keir Starmer to discuss just how naughty his party had been.

The last two weeks in politics have of course have been dominated by ‘Tory sleaze’, with the government’s attempt to sweep Owen Paterson’s lobbying for business interests under the carpet, triggering accusations of dodgy conflicts of interests left, right and centre (but mostly right) and embarrassing government U-turns, with Starmer’s Labour Party coming out looking like not such a bad option for voters after all.

So, did Johnson manage to recoat his party in Teflon or did Starmer get a gold star for good behaviour?

Let’s take a look:

“He should wait and see for what is going to be announced tomorrow... I’m not going to spoil it for him.” Johnson, 1/10

After Starmer questioned Johnson on his HS2 policy amid news that part of it is set to be scrapped, the PM dodged the query completely by pretending he was saving the news for a surprise.

Johnson has a background in journalism so he is no stranger to a delayed drop. However, when you are a PM and no longer a columnist perhaps you should, you know, tell the public what policies are being enacted that will affect their lives?

“Will he do the decent thing and just say ‘sorry’ for trying to give the green light to corruption” Starmer, 9/10

Next, Starmer turned his attention to the sleaze crisis, embarrassing Johnson by reading out a long list of ministers who have apologised for the Paterson affair before asking him to do the same.

“It certainly was a mistake...” Johnson, 6/10

And it worked (sort of) and Johnson – while not apologising – actually used the word “mistake” in relation to his own decision, before then chuntering off some stuff about how the government was “conflating an individual case” with a bigger picture making it seem like he didn’t think it was a mistake at all.

“It’s prime minister’s questions, not leader of the opposition’s questions” Hoyle, 8/10

Johnson being Johnson, he then tired of defending the government policy and switched his tactics to a more “but you were naughty too, Keir” approach, and questioned him about his involvement with law firm Mishcon de Reya.

It has been reported that the leader of the Labour Party at the time (Jeremy Corbyn) blocked Starmer from taking a second job at the firm in 2017 but a spokesperson for the leader said he turned it down himself.

Speaker of the house Sir Lindsay Hoyle had to remind him that quizzing Starmer is just not how PMQs works.

Later, Johnson tried to bring it up again, promoting Hoyle to add: “Prime Minister, sit down... in this house, I’m in charge.”

Ouch.

“I don’t want to fall out about it... we play by the rules don’t we?” Hoyle, 10/10

Johnson tried to ask Starmer about his own interests for a third time provoking a very sassy line from Hoyle. The house laughed in response.

Hoyle also had to give Starmer a telling-off for calling Johnson a “coward” so Starmer withdrew it.

“The joke isn’t funny anymore”, Starmer 7/10

Johnson’s political career has centred around his personality and he has depended on voters seeing him as a loveable fool. But the best sitcoms only air for a few series as they know to quit while they are ahead. Starmer knows Johnson’s missed his chance and he wasn’t afraid to call him out on it.

“His own mishconduct is absolutely clear” Johnson, 8/10

Undeterred by procedure, Johnson then brought Mishcon de Reya up for a fourth time. The joke broadly isn’t funny anymore but this one was, unfortunately, a bit.

“I don’t think this is done this house any good today. I’ll be quite honest, I think it’s been ill tempered... I think it shows the public that this house has not learned...” Hoyle, 10/10

After all that palaver it was Hoyle who had the last word and cut Johnson off as he embarked on his usual celebratory rant about how good the government is at just about everything even the weather, probably.

As Hoyle pointed out, an MP was killed in recent weeks yet politicians still think it is appropriate to shout and scream and jeer and jibe all they like. It was only last month that they debated civility in politics and pushed through legislation to toughen up online hate.

It was thought we would soon see regression to the norm but still, a shame.

Verdict

This was one of the most raucous editions of PMQs yet.

While an important issue, leading on HS2 was a bit of an odd move from Starmer given he is now leading in the polls not because of the minutiae of railway infrastructure but the alleged misconduct of numerous Conservative politicians creating a gulf between them and the public.

Nevertheless, he pulled it back and gave Johnson a good walloping over the Tory sleaze crisis – though politics obsessives will notice he recycled lines he had previously used on broadcast rounds.

There’s no doubt that Johnson was incredibly flustered and, asked numerous times by Hoyle to stop batting sleaze accusations back at Starmer, he had no other ammunition, so instead continued to break the rules until Hoyle literally told him to “sit down”.

As the disgraced Commons shouted and screamed like petulant children waiting for half term, Johnson sat back down in detention, while prefect Starmer asked Hoyle if he had remembered to set the homework.

But it was the teacher who remained in charge of the classroom, so it was Hoyle who came off best.

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