The two boxers jabbed away at each other, each doing his utmost to show he had not been hurt by the other.

The spectators wanted to see one or other fighter knocked down, bleeding copiously, staggering back to his feet only to be led away by his second, Dominic Raab or Angela Rayner as the case might be.

But Sir Keir Starmer preserved his unimpressed look, the condescending manner of a top lawyer amazed at his opponent’s depravity.

Rishi Sunak too refused to be impressed, and went jab, jab, jab: “I know he’s reading from prepared sheets but he should listen to what I actually said.”

And again: “I believe in due process.” Sunak contrasted his own sense of justice, his insistence that the allegations against Nadhim Zahawi must be properly examined, with the “simple political opportunism” shown by the Leader of the Opposition, which anyone could see through.

Sir Keir grew yet more condescending: “Is he starting to wonder if this job is just too big for him?”

Sunak was stung. He too wishes the world to see he is not as other men, and in particular that he is not like Boris Johnson.

Already he had reminded the House that the various issues which are now leading the news “occurred before I was Prime Minister”, and had remarked that “no issues were raised with me”.

Now he said he stood by his values and principles, having resigned when he disagreed with Johnson, unlike Sir Keir, who for four long years had sat next to Jeremy Corbyn while anti-semitism ran riot in the Labour Party.

That was Sunak’s last reply, so Sir Keir had no chance to retort that when the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer he had for really quite a long time sat next to Johnson at PMQs, and only resigned when his leader’s plight became desperate.

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