A crowded House, a buzz of anticipation. What show they had come to see?
A man in trouble. The police have been called. He has been holding, or attending, parties which were against the rules.
It is even said that cake has been involved. The neighbours on the other side of the street, led by a distinguished lawyer called Sir Keir Starmer, are up in arms.
They compete with each other to condemn the accused man. By his shameless conduct, he has brought shame on the whole community.
He has polluted the very air that he breathes and muddied the pure waters of truth. He must resign forthwith and in an ideal world would be replaced at once by Sir Keir. So say these crusaders for decency and honour.
What is the demeanour of the accused? Does he look beaten or ashamed? Has the fight gone out of him?
No. Boris Johnson looks as if he is enjoying himself. As any heavyweight parliamentarian must, he loves going out in rough weather, the rougher the better.
Today is rough. The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, repeatedly calls the House to order. He says their constituents want to hear what the contestants are saying.
We are not sure this is entirely true. Many will have turned on the telly to see a fight, the bloodier the better.
And for there to be a proper fight, a proper spectacle, it is essential that the wounded contestant, the Prime Minister, demonstrates fighting spirit.
Which he does. He comes out swinging. Though bleeding from innumerable arrows, he takes a series of mighty swings at his opponent, who has been “relentlessly opportunistic”, “flip-flopped from one side to the other” throughout the pandemic, and worst of all is “a lawyer, not a leader”.
Anyone who refuses to understand why that is an insult, and an effective one, will never understand Johnson’s appeal to the wider public.
People took to Twitter to name great men who had been lawyers: Gandhi, Mandela, Lincoln.
All beside the point. In English usage, a lawyer is a hypocrite for hire: someone who takes a fee and argues a case in a fancy manner without believing a word of it.
When Shakespeare’s line “let’s kill all the lawyers” is performed, whether or not it ought to be applauded is irrelevant, for it invariably is.
Here was Johnson reverting to his earliest and most successful persona: the man who takes on the Establishment and wins.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab, Brighton) struck back: “I would prefer to be led by a lawyer than a liar.”
The Speaker made him withdraw the word “liar”, which Russell-Moyle had used repeatedly, attributing it to his constituents rather than himself.
Johnson said Russell-Moyle didn’t know what he was talking about. But in fact this PMQs did much to clarify the struggle, and to reveal on which side people belong.
The Prime Minister stepped forward as a man who loves this country and is getting all the big calls about its future right. He portrayed his opponents as priggish, prating, moralistic hypocrites, or in common parlance as lawyers.
Everyone who watched the fight will have known instinctively who they wanted to win. In North London, they will have scored it for Sir Keir. In many other places, and indeed on the Tory benches, they will have scored it for Johnson.