Jester in the House: Sir Keir Starmer ladled out jokes at the PMQs yesterday but avoided questioning Boris Johnson about government plans to deport Channel-hoppers to Rwanda
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HENRY DEEDES: Brace, people! Westminster’s prize dullard Sir Keir Starmer tries his hand at comedy as he decides that he is Mr Showbiz

Sir Keir Starmer swerved the whole Rwanda business at PMQs yesterday. Bottled it, went yeller, turned frit as Mrs T would say. Not a single question did he put to Boris Johnson about Government plans to deport illegal Channel-hoppers to Africa: the scheme so cynically scuppered by his frappuccino-sipping friends in the legal industry.

Whisper it, but do we think the penny might be dropping that voters actually support this move?

Instead, something profoundly disturbing occurred. Something so gruesome that those who witnessed it could be damaged for life. Brace yourselves, people. Keir Starmer began cracking jokes.

That’s right. Westminster’s prize dullard suddenly decided that he was Mr Showbiz.

Stung by recent focus groups which showed most voters see him as an ocean-going bore, the Leader of the Opposition turned up to the Commons laden with wisecracks designed to convince people what a stand-up guy he is.

Starmer is one of life’s details men. He likes to delve into the nitty-gritty. His currency is minutiae. But jokes? Not his thing.

He chose his moment early, while he and Boris were having a back-and-forth on the economy. Starmer claimed that Britain was due to experience the slowest growth this year in every major country apart from Russia.

Boris instead claimed the International Monetary Fund was predicting we would be the second-fastest.

Step forward The Entertainer, twiddling his cane and waggling his straw boater. ‘He thinks he can perform Jedi mind tricks on the country [by telling us] the economy is booming,’ roared Sir Keir. ‘The problem is, the Force just isn’t with him anymore. He thinks he is Obi-Wan Kenobi. The truth is, he’s Jabba the Hutt!’

Now for those not familiar, these were references to the Star Wars franchise – those fantasy blockbusters so beloved by geeky teenagers and young men who live with their parents. The reference felt totally out of place, though – weird and geeky. No wonder Ed Miliband was in left in stitches.

At this Wildean effort, Boris stared blankly. Not sure he had a clue what Starmer was on about. By the look on his face, he may have spent too much time in the sun on Monday. (He wasn’t the only one. The shoulders on Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner were pinker than a strawberry lollipop.)

Jester in the House: Sir Keir Starmer ladled out jokes at the PMQs yesterday but avoided questioning Boris Johnson about government plans to deport Channel-hoppers to Rwanda

Jester in the House: Sir Keir Starmer ladled out jokes at the PMQs yesterday but avoided questioning Boris Johnson about government plans to deport Channel-hoppers to Rwanda

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured sat next to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the weekly PMQs session in the House of Commons in London on June 15

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured sat next to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the weekly PMQs session in the House of Commons in London on June 15

But Keir wasn’t done with the thigh-slappers. ‘He says the economy is booming when it is shrinking,’ he continued. ‘He is game-playing so much he thinks he’s on Love Island!’

Had this been a working men’s club, such a lame quip would have been met with stony silence followed by a wisp of tumbleweed floating across the stage. But being the Commons of course, the Conservative benches erupted into derisory ya-boos.

The chamber, by the way, was loud. Double loud. Tory backbenchers had whipped themselves into a pre-lunch frenzy. Starmer hates it when it’s like this. It knocks him off his stride. At one point he began dithering at the dispatch box for so long, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle interjected: ‘I think we need to get to a question.’ Cue uproarious laughter.

His next attack-line was to regurgitate a document being circulated by some of Boris’s own MPs, in which they described the PM as the Tories’ answer to Jeremy Corbyn. Boris pulled his most elastic ‘You what?’ face and countered that Starmer had campaigned for the deluded old Trot.

He added that, compared to Starmer, Corbyn was a ‘dynamic’ figure. And on the evidence that I saw yesterday, it was hard to disagree.

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