THE attention of the entire nation(s) focused on Westminster. In the House of Commons, tension electrified the air. The assembled lieges turned to face one man, a troubled soul who bore the weight of history on his shoulders.

At last, taking his courage in his hands, he spoke: “Washing machine manufacturers are considering installing microfibre filter systems in all new washing machines. Will the …”

Alas, the speech was quickly drowned in hullaballoo. The speaker was Alberto Costa, a Scotchman representing Leicestershire South for the Conservatives, who then complained: “People laughing at plastic pollution, Mr Speaker!”

Naw, mate, they were laughing at you, or at least your excellent comedic timing. Mr Costa spoke amidst one of the most contentious Prime Minister's Questions sessions in ages, one in which the future of the PM himself was at stake. And Albert butts in with his washing machine filters.

To be uncharacteristically fair, it wasn’t really his fault. PMQs is a curious – some would say mental – mix of the nationally significant and the parochial. In a way, this worked to beleaguered Boris’s advantage yesterday.

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Although not one Tory backbencher said a word in defence of Mr Johnson’s parties, a succession stood up after Albert to take the heat out of the occasion. Thus we got Eastleigh’s proud transport heritage; the excellent bus service in Stoke-on-Trent; the hard work of the Stourbridge job centre; some fat bloke asking the PM “to put his weight behind” nuclear in his constituency; and an interesting fossil find in Rutland.

At least when, looking as if he’d just spent the last million years in a field, Boris Johnson rose reluctantly from the ooze just after high noon, he chose to address the day’s big issue: boozing.

Pale, grim, and stooping like his hero Churchill, the PM’s speech offered distint echoes of the great war leader’s oratory: “I have nothing to offer you but tripe, drivel and mince.”

He began by saying what, contrary to popular perception, is the easiest word: sorry, or at least, “I want to apologise.” This was for attending a party in the back-garden of his house during lockdown.

As he explained: “Number 10 is a big department with the garden as the extension of the office … I believed implicitly that this was a work event.”

He made it sound like the old Press Bar at the foot of The Herald’s former HQ. This was starting to sound like a most reasonable case indeed.

He said he’d only attended for 25 minutes to thank his staff but now thought he should have found “some other way” of thanking them. Yes, a banana each perhaps.

All this was greeted by loud opposition jeering. Well, as it said on the invitation: Bring your own boos. By contrast, Labour opposition leader Keir Starmer was heard in worried silence by the Tory benches.

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In a surprise development, Sir Keir called Boris “pathetic”, said his apology was “worthless”, and described as ridiculous his defence that “he didn’t realise he was at a party”.

Worse still, he accused him of breaking the ministerial code (“Thou shalt not be caught telling porkies”), for which there was only one consequence. A nice pension.

Interestingly, Boris milked parliamentary protocol to ironic excess, responding to these insults by thanking the right honourable gentleman repeatedly and even saying: “I appreciate the point that he is making.”

It’s as if someone down the pub called you a big-nosed, syphilitic prat and you replied: “I appreciate the point you make and respect the knee that you’ve just stuck in my guts.”

Talking of guts, the straining waistcoat of SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford quivered with rage as he bellowed that Boris stood accused “of betraying the nation’s trust, of treating the public with contempt, of yada-yada …”

The Prime Minister, he said, “cannot get away with it again” – flurry of titters among the bookmakers – and added that Mr J should do the “decent thing”. You all know what the decent thing is in politics, readers. Correct: carry on regardless.

Mr B pronounced: “It is an open and shut case.”

Boris thought bubble: “An open and shut up case.”

While the public suffered, Ian added, Mr Johnson was “drinking and laughing” – aye, nae guid ever came o’ that – “behind the walls of his private garden”.

Boris: “I just want to thank the right honourable gentleman” – see what I mean? – “for his political advice, which I will take with a pinch of salt as it comes from the Scottish Nationalist (sic) Party.”

Thus Boris. He’s certainly got some sauce.