There was a better turnout of Tory MPs this week than last, and they raised a cheer when Boris Johnson came to the Despatch Box.

But the cheer sounded faintly ironical, and Sir Keir Starmer looked much happier than he usually does, and also more dangerous.

In place of the pious, up-tight, North London human rights lawyer, we had the man in the pub, enjoying the chance to tease a loud-mouthed regular whose claim that “nobody would have to sell their home to pay for care” had just been exploded.

“No, Mr Speaker,” Boris Johnson protested, and gave a longish reply which included the words “deferred payment”, but which did not quite seem to dispose of the charge made against him.

“I see they turned up this week,” Sir Keir said as he gazed with a smile at the Tory benches. Soon he was remarking of the PM in a relaxed tone, “who knows if he’ll make it to the next election”, and wondering, “if he does”, how he expects “anyone to take him and his promises seriously”.

Patronised by a lawyer! Johnson does not like having to testify to his own seriousness, so instead set out to show that Sir Keir cannot be taken seriously, having campaigned against HS2.

“Mr Speaker,” Sir Keir rejoined with another infuriating smile, “I think he’s lost his place in his notes again.”

Soon he added the question put to Johnson by a journalist after the Peppa Pig speech: “Is everything OK, Prime Minister?”

How Johnson would have enjoyed this, had the roles been reversed, and he was the one quoting the most wounding taunts from recent days.

As it was, he just had to soak up the punishment and indicate by his smiling demeanour that he was not in the slightest bit hurt by these jibes.

Beside the Prime Minister sat Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a black mask which made it impossible to see what he thought of his leader’s difficulties.