WITH a week still to go before pubs in England open their doors again, the Sunday show hosts were keen to send a sober message about the coronavirus crisis being far from over.

“I don’t really want to be a glum bucket,” said Andrew Marr, echoing a prime ministerial turn of phrase, “but folks, it ain’t so.”

Despite the best efforts of the Scot and Sophy Ridge, his counterpart on Sky News, there was a slight “end of term” air abroad. For that, blame prime ministerial push-ups. Mr Johnson’s determination to prove to a Sunday paper that he was fit for purpose had led to the bizarre sight of the Prime Minister hitting the deck and giving the reporter … well, it was not specified how many push-ups he had done.

First sign of a tone being set was BBC Breakfast host Chris Mason telling viewers that Marr was “limbering up” for his show.

Marr, turning to the photo on the front of the Mail on Sunday, said: “This is the Prime Minister”, adding “we are told”, as if it was possible a body double was used.

Then there was the PM’s description of himself as “fit as a butcher’s dog.” That was deemed worth chewing over in the paper review, with Marr asking BBC correspondent Hugh Pym, “as a health specialist” what the phrase meant.

“We were just speculating about that earlier, whether it meant the dog was fit because it would run around the butcher’s shop looking for scraps, or actually eating a lot of meat which probably isn’t exactly the message to get across to remain fit,” said Pym.

Normal, serious business was resumed when the shows turned to the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey as Shadow Education Secretary for retweeting an article containing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

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The dismissal, which has sparked criticism on the party’s left, took up almost the whole of Marr’s interview with Ed Miliband, Shadow Business Secretary.

Mr Miliband said Ms Long-Bailey was a “very decent person” and he did not believe she was anti-Semitic, but the party leader was right to have acted as he did. This was not about a “purge” of the left, he insisted. “He’s not about purges, I know the guy,” he said of Sir Keir.

Marr ended on a lighter note by asking the former Labour leader a “slightly mean” question.

Miliband was almost Tiggerish in his response. “Gosh yes, go on, you’ve asked me many mean questions over the years.”

If ever there was a politician who looks liberated from the bonds of leadership it is Mr Miliband. Between how he got the job – by taking on his own brother – to his struggles with bacon sarnies, the MP for Doncaster North did not have his troubles to seek as HM Leader of the Opposition.

“You’ve seen Keir Starmer now in operation for a few months, said Marr. “Is he going to be a better leader of the Labour Party than you?”

There was not a second’s hesitancy. “Definitely. I think you’ve seen that already. Look, I certainly never had his approval ratings.”

The Minister for the Sunday shows was Priti Patel. With the rapid easing of the lockdown in England, and scenes of disturbances at illegal gatherings, it was her job to figuratively read the riot act. “We can enjoy ourselves in a very responsible way,” said Ms Patel.

The usual pre-BBC pop-in to Ridge on Sunday yielded a story when Ms Patel was asked about those Labour MPs who had accused her of using her own experiences of racism to “gaslight” the “very real racism” faced by black people in the UK.

Ridge asked if some people had a particular problem with Ms Patel as “a BAME woman who was a Conservative”.

Ms Patel said: “They clearly take the position that I don’t conform to their preconceived idea or stereotypical view of what an ethnic minority woman should stand for and represent. In my view, that in itself is racist.”

Marr, in true Columbo-style, had one last question for the Minister. Was she going abroad on holiday in the summer? “I’ll be working hard throughout the summer,” said Ms Patel.

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Earlier, Joanna Lumley appeared on Marr to plug a special performance of Waiting for Godot in aid of entertainment charities.

“Andrew, you’re going to be coming to sit on my lap,” said the former star of Ab Fab and The New Avengers.

“We weren’t to tell people that, Joanna,” said Marr.

She was treated to the holiday question too. If ever Marr fancies yet another job he would fit right in as a hairdresser. FYI, Ms Lumley is going to France with her husband.

And what of the push-up king? Where might the PM be going on holiday? There was a perhaps a clue when he told the Mail on Sunday that some of the best holidays he had had were in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Devon, adding “Why go anywhere else?”

That festive break in a luxury villa in the Caribbean, his last holiday, had clearly not lived up to expectations.

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