WHAT’s the exit strategy? Well, we’ve heard this week about Boris Johnson’s – apparently it’s to stick around until spring then find a better-paid job.

Ian Blackford makes sure to highlight the fact that the Prime Minister “can’t get by” on £150,000 a year, yet expects those on the minimum wage to cope without a third of their income or join the back of the queue for a Universal Credit top-up. So will he extend the furlough scheme, and guarantee workers 80% of their pay? Of course he won’t.

But it’s another kind of exit strategy that’s dominating PMQs today, as Keir Starmer side-steps yesterday’s political pantomime in Manchester to ask what it will take for the areas of England that are currently in Tier 3 to be released from these severe restrictions. It’s a trick question, because according to Starmer “Tier 3 has no end.”

Right now the end of restrictions are not the focus of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who is anxious about whether those he represents will be able to keep their businesses afloat, pay their bills and put food on the table during the coming weeks or potentially months.

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Did Burnham know before today’s PMQs that the £60 million in extra support initially offered by the UK Government – then apparently whipped away in dramatic fashion – was back on the table? What exactly does Johnson mean when he issues the carefully worded statement that this cash “will be distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester”? Is this the Prime Minister’s way of sidelining and punishing a local leader who had the temerity to stand up to the UK Government and push for a better deal for his citizens?

If only there was some kind of forum where a Labour politician could put these questions to the Prime Minister, and take him to task for playing political games with people’s lives ... oh, wait! That’s exactly what I’m watching now , but aside from a brief reference to the “grubby, take-it-or-leave-it way these deals are being done”, Starmer doesn’t seem interested in talking about Manchester. Instead he is pushing – and pushing hard – for a UK-wide “circuit-breaker” lockdown.

“Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland in part have chosen that path,” he declares confidently. I’m not sure how indefinite regional restrictions in parts of Scotland – which is moving to a tiered system next month – support his argument that we need time-limited blanket restrictions instead, but presumably he’s confident no-one will dwell too much on the detail of that particular statement.

For once the Prime Minister declines the opportunity to fire back a question of his own. He might legitimately have asked what Starmer’s exit strategy would be if the whole of the UK found itself in a cycle of circuit-breakers, a soul-crushing tightening and loosening of restrictions with no clear end – and no vaccine – in sight.

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Oddly, on this occasion he did not even really try to suggest that Starmer was undermining the government’s aims by painting Tier 3 as a permanent state and rubbishing the suggestion that hand-washing, face-covering and keeping a distance might not be enough to bring the R number below 1 in any of the affected areas.

Last week he suggested any lack of progress would be the fault of local authorities failing to enforce the rules or conjure up fool-proof local Test & Trace facilities that can somehow bypass the Lighthouse laboratories log-jam. This week he didn’t dare.

As the weeks go by and infection rates rise he’s becoming less bombastic and combative. No longer is he claiming we’ll get Covid done if we all just jolly well work together. He can no longer even be bothered to squeeze in some “Captain Hindsight” jibes.

Whatever happens next, we’ve got some long, hard months to endure before spring. If only we could all be confident of getting new jobs when it arrives.