The most compelling and controversial political image of the week so far was surely Keir Starmer being mobbed by anti-vaccine protestors in Westminster, some of whom repeated the Prime Minister’s controversial Jimmy Savile jibe.
There was, however, almost no mention of any of that at today’s PMQs.
First off Boris Johnson announced all COVID restrictions in England could be scrapped within weeks. Then Keir Starmer focussed on what his team believes are big issues for people across the UK: the cost of living, rising energy bills and fraud.
Read more: Met Police reviewing decision not to probe No 10 quiz after picture of PM near alcohol emerges
Sky News analysis of Sir Keir’s language today shows the words he used most include ‘fraud’, ‘loan’ and ‘bill’. Labour sources have told me they have detected significant public concern about the cost of living, as well as fraud and scams.
They believe this is the chancellor’s biggest weakness. So why focus on Rishi Sunak? Perhaps because they believe Boris Johnson’s reputation has already been seriously damaged, and now they are trying to toxify one of those likely to succeed him at No 10.
The PM’s response to the Labour leader was to attack the Opposition’s own approach to the crisis over energy bills.
Our analysis of Boris Johnson’s language shows words like ‘government’, ‘plan’ and ‘country’ appeared often.
Politics live: Photo of PM with wine bottle and ominous warning from Dominic Cummings
And just as partygate was abating, that very row was reignited during PMQs when the Mirror newspaper published a photo of the PM at a No 10 Christmas quiz near what looks like a bottle of champagne.
It is worth noting from where I was sitting in the press gallery, Fabian Hamilton’s question looked typed-out not hand-written. That suggests all this may have been a little less off-the-cuff and a little more coordinated than at first glance.
We know Boris Johnson has recently been resetting, refreshing and reshuffling his team.
Today we saw many of the appointees in action including new Chief Whip Chris Heaton Harris taking his seat on the government benches, new No 10 Chief of Staff Steve Barclay sitting next to the PM, and just behind not only Mr Johnson’s new policy chief Andrew Griffith but his enlarged team of parliamentary private secretaries. These four MPs were armed with ring-binders and passed their boss briefing notes throughout the session.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was ticked off by the Speaker for heckling, and right near the end – in response to a spiky question from Tory Mark Harper – Boris Johnson made this commitment on publishing the results of Sue Gray’s inquiry.
The PM succeeded in making it through today’s grilling without any scrapes, and parliament’s half term recess starts tomorrow – so Boris Johnson now seems safe from a leadership challenge until MPs return in 12 days time.