GREMLINS in the system are causing problems at this week’s PMQs and no, I’m not referring to Priti Patel. However, the Home Secretary has been creating her own form of havoc by disregarding the principle of collective responsibility and claiming she wanted the UK’s borders to be closed last March.

When asked by Keir Starmer why he overruled her, Boris Johnson replies: “We instituted one of the toughest border regimes in the world and it was only last March that he – along with many others in his party – were continuing to support an open border approach.”

This demonstrates, apparently, that Starmer is a weather vane, spinning around in the wind.

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Wait a bloody minute. Did the Prime Minister just conflate appeals to retain freedom of movement between the UK and the EU with allowing folk to come and go as they pleased during a global pandemic?

Just for good measure he hurls in his standard accusations that Starmer previously “attacked the vaccine taskforce”, wanted to crush pharmaceutical companies and stole elderly people’s zimmer frames, or claims to that effect. With that, it’s on to the next questioner.

Starmer had led, not unreasonably, with another area of Patel’s responsibility – the accidental deletion of more than 400,000 crime records. He wanted to know how many criminal investigations will be damaged as a result. Well, said the PM, we don’t know – but the Home Office hopes it can restore all the missing data. Q: How many criminals have had their records wiped? A: You do the maths! Q: How long will it take for all the wrongly deleted records to be reinstated? A: Well that depends on how long it will take to recover them, doesn’t it?

Great, that’s reassuringly specific. We can all sleep easily at night knowing that it will take as long as it takes, that DNA profiles of the most serious offenders may be lost forever, and that Priti Patel will continue to say and do whatever she damn well pleases while using more junior ministers as human shields.

Anyway, it’s on to Ian Blackford, who is ready to embarrass the PM with the words of another of his right honourable critics, I mean friends. This time it’s Theresa May, who has accused the government of abandoning the UK’s “position of global more leadership” by slashing foreign aid spending. Will this decision be reversed?

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No answer is forthcoming, of course, with Johnson instead inviting Blackford to explain if the SNP’s policy is to “unbundle Nato”. The Speaker highlights Johnson’s “memory lapse” in getting the party’s name wrong for the 400th time, but has nothing to say about the shouts of laughter that greet the failure of his video link.

Fortunately there’s nothing wrong with Ben Bradshaw’s connection, and the Labour MP is able to take the PM to task for falsely promising UK fishermen that Brexit would not cause new export barriers or unnecessary form-filling.

Johnson concedes that “complications over form-filling” are indeed causing problems, before suggesting the main issue is actually that restaurants on mainland Europe are shut. He also promises UK fishermen will soon be able to catch more, which would be fantastic news if only they were confident of being able to sell it.

These answers and excuses border on the ridiculous – does anyone still believe him?