THE nice thing about Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn is that they genuinely cannot stand each other. That footage of them walking to the Lords together, with BoJo smarming fit to burst and Jezza ignoring him, sums up their non-relationship. Coleen Rooney and Rebecca Vardy get on better.

So when they went mano e mano last night it was expected that there would be blood on the shiny floor before the evening was out. Host Julie Etchingham had even worn a rose coloured suit to hide the stains.

The clash was duly convened. Hang on a mo, though. In the words of that arch feminist, Frank McAvennie, were were all the burdz? Our host aside, the stage was a woman free zone, a regular Salford Lads’ Club. No Nicola. No Jo. They had to wait till the men were done talking before they could have their say in a later programme. Women, know thy place.

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It was all terribly civilised at first, with Mr Johnson this, Mr Corbyn that, and only the questioners, arranged like a jury in two tiers, referred to by their first names. Happily, mention of Scotland got both men’s dander up, with Mr Johnson making a “Corbyn-Sturgeon coalition” sound like a new strain of stomach flu. Who wants a chaotic coalition he asked. We’ve had one for nine years, Jezza batted back. It was almost as cute a response as Etchingham asking Boris, pledging to have a trade deal by the end of 2020, if he had dug a new ditch or had any plans to mint a coin.

Fair play to Miss Julie. At first I thought the hosting gig should have been given to our own Lorraine Kelly. Lolly’s question the other day to Boris’s personal tech tutor Jennifer Arcuri - "What's the point of you coming on TV to clear the air and then you don't say anything?" - could have come in handy here in the beginning.

But once she got going, Etchingham was cooking with gas. She might look like Mary Poppins but she can’t half poke a brolly where it hurts. She quoted a former Johnson aide who said the Conservative leader had betrayed every person he had dealings with, and she tore a strip off Corbyn for anti-Semitism in his party. After a ding-dong on public spending promises she asked Boris Johnson if he had found a magic money tree, and whether his opposite number had found a few of them. Ouch.

Boris Johnson had prepared for the debate by heading to a boxing gym, perhaps to sweat off some of that legendary testosterone lest he impregnate a member of the audience just by looking at her. Jeremy Corbyn had a haircut and posted the result on Instagram. It was a proper barber and everything, thus neatly confounding all those who thought Diane Abbott did the honours for him with a pudding bowl and a rusty knife.

ITV had not exactly splashed the cash on the set. Those podiums looked suspiciously familiar. Then again, given we have had 17 elections and 58 debates (or feels like it) since those three not so wise men Clegg, Cameron, and Brown started the ball rolling in 2010, you can hardly blame a broadcaster for going for a “pre-loved” set. After all, we could be here again next Spring if no party can command a majority. Keep that screaming to a dull roar please, madam. To change the tone, Etchingham asked both men to pledge themselves to a kinder, more civilised politics in future. They had a bicker about that, before being prompted to shake hands. Boris bounded towards the Labour leader, who looked at the PM like he was a Golden Retriever who had recently rolled in sheep poo.

For all the carefully crafted questions on Brexit, the NHS et al, the most revealing inquiries were the quick fire ones. Was the monarchy fit for purpose, someone asked, a certain prince clearly in mind. “Needs a bit of improvement,” said Jeremy Corbyn, to cheers. “The institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach,” said the PM, missing the mood of the room. Which current political leader do you most admire? Boris waffled about the EU 27 who he said had given him a great deal on Brexit. The Donald will be upset about that lack of a mention. Mr Corbyn plumped for the UN Secretary General, for trying to bring about world peace. Aw. What a wonderful Miss World contestant Jezza would have made if not for that beard.

The hour up, Johnson had the last word and the show was over. It was 9pm and politics had to make way for the next programme in the listings, I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! A competition in which minor talents surrounded by creepy crawlies compete for a prize of dubious worth. Seemed familiar somehow.

Some of us had given up River City, a tale of dodgy Weegies, for this date with a couple of Westminster wide boys. We were hoping for a genuine televisual moment, when one of the two would cut through the fog of the so far phoney war with a rapier sharp message and a rousing vision of the future. It’s always the hope that kills you.