Rishi gave one of his ‘better performances’ and the screws were put on Keir

Rishi Sunak took part in The Sun's 'Never Mind the Ballots' election showdown
Rishi Sunak took part in The Sun's 'Never Mind the Ballots' election showdown - DAN CHARITY/PA

A debate hosted by the Sun? Most appropriate for a heatwave – and the event started so well. Never Mind the Ballots presenter Harry Cole – so jubilantly Tory, with wild hair and blazing eyes, you could imagine him driving a Rolls in goggles – drew the running order from a tombola.

But there were no page three stunners and the press wasn’t even allowed in the studio. We were guided by Sun security to a small, stuffy room on the 17th floor to watch the interviews via a dodgy feed on a projector. Bring back Sam Fox, I say.

Three-two-one: the screen lit up with Harry’s big happy face. “From the NHS to crime to potholes”, Prime Minster, why is Britain no longer working?

Rishi launched into his standard “tough times” defence; the gambling scandal came up. “I was incredibly angry,” he said – and “crackle, crackle”, the feed broke down. Panic among the journalists; the tech crew ran in. “Can you see what this looks like?” we heard Harry say to Rishi – but the press sadly could not.

Sir Keir Starmer was also grilled, as part of the debate
Sir Keir Starmer was also grilled, as part of the debate - PA/DAN CHARITY

Judging that it was best to switch from the live feed to watching on YouTube, a techie put Google on the projector and searched for “Sun” and “YouTube” - only to bring up dozens of videos on the physics of the giant orb radiating thick heat through the windows. Next: terms and conditions. Angry click: agree all! Rishi re-appeared in time to say “I sense people’s frustrations” – and the room cheered.

This was one of the PM’s better performances, because he’s learning to challenge audiences that pose absurd problems he cannot fix. One university student was worried about renting into his 40s. His expectations seem a little high; I’m not sure it’s the state’s job to guarantee every graduate a terrace house in Putney.

Next up, Sir Keir – and Harry put the screws on. You once said Jeremy Corbyn was great; now you can’t stand him. So which is it?

“I never thought Labour would win in 2019”, he said, followed by “I have fundamentally changed the party.” Keir seems to regard this achievement as an answer to literally every question imaginable.

“What’s the price of milk, Sir Keir?”

“I have fundamentally changed the party.”

“And what’s the capital of Botswana?”

“I have fundamentally changed the party.”

Never Mind the Ballots is hosted by The Sun's Harry Cole
Never Mind the Ballots is hosted by The Sun's Harry Cole - DAN CHARITY/PA

When he uttered the magic phrase for the billionth time, the screen froze and a circle appeared in the centre, rotating. Breaking the silence of the press room, I asked: “Is that Keir buffering, or the video?”

The special feature presentation ended; beer was released into the viewing room like a bracing cold shower – and Harry swaggered by, wine glass in hand, to bask in well-earned adulation. He was followed by Gillian Keegan, here to spin for a government that seems to have given up. Rishi said earlier, “If I’m your prime minister, the flights will go to Rwanda” – forgetting that he is our PM and has been for a while.

Give us a giggle, Gillian, we said; tell us a joke.

“How does Keir Starmer energise a room?” she asked. “He leaves it.”