OH, the rough and tumble. The tough tackling. Difficult decisions. Dodgy refereeing. The cheers and boos. The time-wasting antics. The dribbling.

We refer, of course, to the football, and not to Prime Minister’s Questions, which is more like a game of chess – played by hooligans. You won’t be surprised to learn that English and Scottish persons in the House of Commons chamber had a little go at each other over the important matter of bootin’ a ba’ aboot.

Boris Johnson, the alleged Prime Minister, kicked things off with this controversial cri de guerre, if that isn’t too foreign a thing to say in reference to such nationalistic matters: “We will all be hoping against hope that, this time, finally, football is coming home.”

If you’re not familiar with the song, that means coming home to England, where the game self-evidently belongs. Or belonged in the past. With his 1940s accent, Labour opposition leader Keir Starmer – It’s That Man Again! – joined in the PM’s terracing chorus about the current Euros competition: “I know the whole house – the WHOLE house – will wish the team the very best of luck on Saturday, I’m sure.”

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The point is that both of these top English defenders directed their remarks at Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, forgetting their club rivalries to unite for country against the hated – sorry, much-loved – enemy.

Mr Blackford, for his part, replied gamely: “Can I congratulate England for their victory last night and, of course, wish them all the best in the tournament ahead.” How generous. How decent. How we just knew there was going to be a playful sting in the tail: “Of course, they’ve done well. They’ve won most of their matches, with the exception of the game against Scotland, when they even failed to score a goal. Nae luck!”

Good-natured groans greeted the barb, though it was also notable yesterday that, as with crowds bringing back atmosphere to the football, the much fuller than usual House of Commons made a good old racket, indicating anew that times are getting back to abnormal.

That said, Covid – unlike Matt Hancock – remains with us. Sir Keir was curious about recent events. Why had the PM considered the matter of the then Health Secretary’s indiscretion “closed” on Friday and to have been, according to his spokesperson, “quite happy” for Mr Hancock to stay in post?

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Boris proceeded to explain expertly that the game was all about speed. He’d read the story last Friday and had a new Health Secretary in by the Saturday. Indeed, he’d worked at “lightning speed”, compared to Sir Keir, “who spent three days trying and failing to sack his deputy leader, who he then promoted. He fires and rehires!”

The Labour leader fired back: “The deputy leader is sitting beside me. The former Health Secretary has done a runner!” With reference to the PM then trying to take credit for the Health Secretary resigning, Mr Starmer said of Boris: “In a minute, he’ll be telling us that he scored the winner last night.”

More substantively, Sir Keir pointed out that, according to department guidelines, a non-executive director was supposed to challenge the Secretary of State. As the non-executive director under advisement was Mr Hancock’s paramour, surely there’d been a “blindingly obvious” conflict of interest here?

Correct, as you can always tell when Boris doesn’t address the matter but parrots the same old slogans he’d squawked out earlier.

More damningly, Sir Keir raised the case of Ollie Bibby, who’d died aged 27 the day before Mr Hancock was filmed snogging his lover. Mr Bibby had begged to see family members, but had been unable to because of Mr Hancock’s rules, which the then Health Secretary was busy breaking himself.

Mr Johnson said that, while he shared the pain and grief of Mr Bibby’s family, the point was to focus on the vaccine roll-out and not, like Mr Starmer, on “stuff going on within the Westminster bubble”, a remark the Labour leader condemned angrily as inappropriate.

Talking of globules of gas, Mr Blackford’s substantive point, after the football banter, concerned “hundred of thousands of unprocessed cases” of EU nationals wishing to stay in the UK. With the deadline for settlement applications yesterday, Mr B emptied a lorryload of eggs onto his pudding when he claimed this threatened to be “another Tory Windrush”.

There wasn’t much mileage in this half-baked virtue-signalling and, accordingly, Boris proceeded to drown it in raspberry sauce, pointing out that it had been five years since Brexit and that the deadline had been extended several times, with no fewer than 5.6 million people meeting it timeously. The gist seemed to be that, if you still haven’t got your application in, then there isn’t much more that the Government can do – other than buy you a desk diary.

In the meantime, mark PMQs in your diaries for next Wednesday, folks, when we’ll have more analysis of the football, complete with several slow-motion replays of the PM’s answers.

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