THE Prime Minister does love to use big words at PMQs. He’s added a new one to his script this week, accusing the Labour party of being “invertebrate” for failing to support his reckless plans for a summer of soaring infections. But there’s no use him parroting soundbites if he doesn’t actually understand what words mean.

Johnson claims scientists are “absolutely clear that we have severed the link between infection and serious disease and deaths,” yet is shy about saying how many hospitalisations and deaths are projected if, as expected, infection rates rise to 100,000 per day. Look at the graphs, he tells Keir Starmer, declining to answer the question and instead firing one back at his opponent.

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It’s almost as if his “severing” claim isn’t supported by the stats. The Labour leader correctly asserts that the link has been weakened but not broken, and reminds everyone how we got into the current mess. “The Prime Minister let the Delta – or we can call it the Johnson – variant into the country,” he says, with a glint in his eye. Johnson lifts his head to respond with his trademark glaikit glare.

Predictably, he wants to bat the question about reckless reopening back to Starmer, asking what he would be doing differently. And frustratingly, Starmer doesn’t exactly have a punchy list of bullet points to fire back. He wants masks on public transport, to “improve ventilation” and ensure Track & Trace remains effective. He wantsa "proper payments for self-isolation”.

“He says it’s reckless to open up, and yet he attacks self-isolation!” howls the Prime Minister in a tyical absurd response. Of course Starmer isn’t doing that, but he is undeniably weak here. The Speaker intervenes to remind us all it’s PMQs, not LOTOs, but Starmer badgering Johnson to say the projected figures out loud really doesn’t answer the question of precisely what he should be doing to keep them lower.

It does seem that keeping mask-wearing on buses and trains mandatory is the Labour leader’s main focus. “If really that is the only difference between us … then that is good news!” crows the PM. The best Starmer can do is allude to the PM’s rumoured No 10 nickname of “Trolley” by referencing him “crashing into the aisles”. Feeble stuff.

On much better form this week is Ian Blackford, who takes aim at the government’s plans to introduce “Trumpian voter ID laws” as a way of solving a voter fraud problem that doesn’t exist. “It’s easier to get re-elected if the government can choose the voters, rather than letting the voters choose their government,” he thunders, ending with a flourish by referring to Johnson as a tinpot dictator.

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The PM is unfazed, saying the SNP’s Westminster leader is making a mountain out of a molehill and having a wee chuckle to himself. He apparently thinks it reasonable to take steps to “protect the public” by introducing such measures. What a nerve he has to use that phrase while simultaneously telling us it’s every man for himself when we’re up against a rapidly spreading virus.

Labour’s Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi certainly isn’t about to let the Prime Minister forget his own role in undermining public trust and safety, speaking with burning fury about his own family’s sacrifices and contrasting these with Johnson’s shrug of a response to Dominic Cummings flouting the rules. Of course, with every passing week we have a clear understanding of why this might have been – Cummings has mountains of dirt on this Tory government and is not afraid to start shovelling it into the public domain. Johnson might like to call Labour invertebrates, but Singh Dhesi does not hold back in quite rightly savaging the “sycophantic, spineless, hypocritical government ministers” who lined up to defend the indefensible.

It’s a shame the BBC’s Politics Live cut away from the session before this powerhouse speech, and also before David Davis hammered home the point that thousands of children will die due to the UK Government’s foreign aid cuts – an unlawful policy that has not been approved by MPs. Does the tinpot dictator care? Of course not. Even without rigging the franchise, he's confident this party can retain the support of English voters. The worst part is that he's probably right to be.