Voices: In Rishi Sunak, we have a prime minister doing an impression of what he thinks a prime minister should do

The first Prime Minister’s Questions of a new prime minister is the one where everyone gets breathlessly excited. And then, jacked up on said excitement, the new leader delivers some aggressively pre-gamed sledgehammer lines, everyone goes slightly mad, declares them to be “Labour’s worst nightmare” and then spends the next however-long-it-takes being proved very wrong indeed.

Jeremy Corbyn saw off two prime ministers. Keir Starmer is already on a hat-trick, and neither of them are or were especially sensational at PMQs (which really doesn’t matter, because neither does PMQs).

The second week is when you start to get a sense of how things are really going to pan out, when things begin to set in motion toward their final destination, and it’s hard to say, at this point, that Rishi Sunak has redirected the train toward anywhere that he actually wants to go.

Rishi Sunak has significant presentational skills as a politician. He has become prime minister for the same reason he became head boy at Winchester. He is polite, somewhat likeable in his own bland, unthreatening way. He exudes a sense of reliability.

He passes with flying colours what you might like to call the “flatmate test”, in a way that no other prime minister for a very long time has done. He might not be as much fun on a night out as his predecessor but you could certainly pass a pleasant evening at home with him. He would make sure the joint account got set up, the broadband installed, the bills paid; and if you gave him a fiver to get you something from the shop, you’d be confident of him actually coming back with it, as well as your change.

These are the indispensable skills of leadership that, in this country, we accidentally dispensed with a long time ago. Rishi Sunak likes to think they’re back now. That we have returned to the ways of “professionalism, integrity and accountability”. And maybe we will, in the end, but we haven’t got there yet. What we have carried on with are the days of rolling farce, of a home secretary who resigned and was reappointed in less than a week, claiming everything’s fine because she “took responsibility”.

And what we’ve also got, is a prime minister feeling like he has no choice but to do an impression of what he thinks a prime minister should be doing at Prime Minister’s Questions. Which is to say, not answering any of the questions put to him, launching his pre-prepared attacks on Labour, and not taking any responsibility for any of the various messes that are the direct cause of his being prime minister in the first place.

“The home secretary said the asylum system is broken – who broke it?” Keir Starmer asked him.

And somewhat unsurprisingly, the answer became about Brexit, that it’s the Tories who’ve ended free movement. You don’t need to be much above five years old to understand that Brexit – and the free movement of people – has got nothing to do with the broken asylum system. Polish plumbers were not asylum seekers. Nor did they arrive in Dover in dinghies.

The fact that the vote for Brexit happened six years ago, long before the small boats began arriving, is enough to make absolutely anybody understand that it’s got nothing to do with Brexit. Nigel Farage doesn’t even bother pretending that it’s got anything to do with Brexit.

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And yet again we’re told that Starmer is a closet Corbynista, that you “can’t trust the Labour Party on national security.” He said he’s going to repeat this stuff “every week”. Yet every week he does so, it will still very obviously be the case that Corbyn isn’t even a member of the party, because he was kicked out – by Keir Starmer.

Rishi Sunak has an impossible job to do. PMQs is always described as some kind of sporting contest, in which one participant “wins” or “loses”. And that may very well be so, but the underlying reality is that Sunak has come on a substitute, a long way into the second half, with his team already about nine-nil down.

If he wants to turn it around, his very best hope is to at least play the game that he’s good at. The head boy trying to be the school bully just makes himself look ridiculous.