A SOMBRE beginning to this week’s PMQs as Boris Johnson marked Holocaust Memorial Day, setting the tone for questions and answers about the grim news that the UK’s Covid-19 death toll has passed 100,000.

“I mourn every death in this pandemic and we share the grief of all those who have been bereaved,” says Johnson, adding that he takes full responsibility for all the actions he has taken. So far, so appropriate. “What the country wants is for us to come together as a parliament,” he adds, which would certainly be convenient for him if it were true.

Naturally, Keir Starmer isn’t happy to come together with the PM when he could instead be holding him to account and challenging his claim that he has “followed the science” throughout, noting that the Cabinet can’t even come together in agreement on matters such as closing the UK’s borders.

The National: Sir Keir Starmer

The leader of the opposition wants to set aside the priority list of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and use the February half-term holiday to vaccinate teachers so that schools can reopen. The Prime Minister wants him to wait a few minutes until his briefing on the subject, but also to say – on the basis of what, it’s unclear – “that schools are safe”.

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Well he’s not going to say they’re safe while also calling for teachers to be urgently vaccinated for their safety, is he? But still, if the Prime Minister believes schools are safe then presumably this later message will say they can reopen immediately…

Starmer is once again due to meet bereaved families, and offers to pass on a message from the Prime Minister. You may recall that last time he was asked this, Johnson veered off into a rant about how his opponent had “more briefs than Calvin Klein”, which was certainly a radical departure from conventional messages of condolences. This time he just about manages a pause in between his message and his rant about Starmer’s alleged “attacks” on the vaccine taskforce.

The National:

Ian Blackford wants to remind Mr “Follow the Science” that he has dithered, delayed and dismissed opposition calls on matters such as border closures. So will he now extend furlough, maintain the Universal Credit uplift and provide support to the excluded three million?

Well, he might do any number of those things, but he’s certainly not going to give answers today – especially not when he has a chance to imply, without challenge, that the Scottish Government has been dithering and delaying with regards to the vaccine rollout. The British Army has stepped in to get them back on track, thankfully, so hooray for the Union.

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Confusion abounds once again when Christine Jardine asks a question about the punitive tariffs imposed on Scotch whisky imports by the United States. Despite her taking the precaution of associating “the Liberal Democrats” with the PM’s Holocaust Memorial Day remarks, he still directs his response to the “Scottish Nationalist Party”. Can I suggest the non-SNP Scottish MPs create some jazzy Zoom backdrops covered in party rosettes? It’s either that or Union flag face paint.

The SNP’s Steven Bonnar takes the opportunity to ask – yet again – if Universal Credit is to be maintained at the level to which it’s been raised during the pandemic, now that people who aren’t considered workshy are having to apply.

The bold Johnson ignores the question and yet still expects groveling gratitude for any crumbs Scotland receives, asserting that his government will continue to look after the people of “this country” and that “it’s a feature of the strength of the UK Treasury” that this is possible.

Well, aren’t we lucky? All this support plus a personal visit from the Prime Minister!