As with most members of the legal profession, Sir Keir Starmer would crawl through an open sewer to hear the sound of his own voice.
No topic is too obscure, too arcane, on which he would happily hold court.
Weighty matters of Human Rights jurisprudence, for example, or the finer points of the Equality Act.
The only matter on which the Labour leader is not happy engaging is Brexit.
Since his party’s calamitous showing at last year’s election, he has regarded the issue as toxic as a rod of weapons-grade plutonium.
HENRY DEEDES: Boris expressed delight that his foe was able to join in their exchange from ‘his vantage point in exile from Islington,’
The mere mention of the ‘B’ word provokes awkward shuffling, the sort usually provoked by inquiries about ex-girlfriends, say, or an embarrassing rash.
What with Boris’s last-gasp trade talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen last night, Sir Keir had little choice but to raise the matter at yesterday’s PMQs.
Starmer was self-isolating again – after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus – meaning he had to be beamed into the Commons via the television screens.
He appeared in a stark white room, which called to mind weird dream sequences or modish art galleries chock-full of Damien Hirst’s pickled animals.
Sir Keir did not look entirely comfortable. He kept glancing from side to side, a nervous drummer boy awaiting his cue.
You could see he missed the reassuring grip of the despatch box, the satisfying squeak of green leather beneath his rump after putting another clever cloggs query to the Prince Minister. Meanwhile, the sound quality was tinny and echoed.
He sounded like a frogman communicating from a decompression chamber.
Boris expressed delight that his foe was able to join in their exchange from ‘his vantage point in exile from Islington,’ he joked, adding toothily: ‘His spiritual home’.
Sir Keir took exception to this. Schloss Starmer was in ‘Camden not Islington’, he huffed.
He might also have pointed out it was not all that long ago that among Islington’s latte-sipping residents was one Boris Johnson, until the ex-wife booted him out.
For 15 minutes, the pair exchanged soft-soap jibes over Brexit. Neither’s heart was in it.
Sir Keir gently riled the PM over his failure to secure a trade deal. Boris clumsily ribbed Starmer over his ‘sphinx-like’ silence on Brexit these past months.
I’ve seen playground conkers contests with more bite. Boris’s mind was clearly on his soiree later with Frau Ursula.
HENRY DEEDES:Sir Keir did not look entirely comfortable. He kept glancing from side to side, a nervous drummer boy awaiting his cue
Sir Keir’s, I would hope, was focussed on escaping that creepy white box.
Far more entertaining was the ding-dong afterwards between Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Labour’s Chris Bryant (Rhondda.)
The precise details of what Mr Bryant may or may not have done to incur Mr Speaker’s fury remain murky. Due to social distancing rules, we lizards in the press gallery hadn’t seen it.
But so far, m’lud, here are the facts. Shortly after Boris had finished with Starmer and was on his feet again, Sir Lindsay’s limbs began flailing towards Bryant, who was lurking in one of the doorways ‘Order! Mr Bryant,’ he yelled.
‘We’re not ‘avin’ that dis-GRAYYYYCE-ful be’aviour!’ You can always tell when Sir Lindsay’s gone properly Tonto as that Lancastrian accent suddenly morphs into full Eric Morecambe.
What was Bryant’s crime? Had he blown Boris a raspberry? Flipped him the bird? Signalled at him to brush his hair, straighten his tie and hitch up his trousers?
Before long, Sir Lindsay and Bryant were huddled in a terse tête-à-tête by the Speaker’s chair.
Words were exchanged, gaudy arm movements thrown. Eventually, Sir Lindsay loudly announced their discussion would have to finish another time. ‘Fine!’ snapped Bryant before flouncing off, trailing that sulky air of a jilted paramour.
By the time the House rose for the evening, we were still none the wiser. All I do know is Sir Lindsay and Bryant have what we call ‘previous’.
When they both stood in last year’s Speaker election, I’m told that relations between them were not entirely fragrant.