Boris Johnson faced two sessions of questions today, but then again, he didn’t really. The record shows he faced questions from Angela Rayner at Prime Ministers’ Questions, and he then faced questions from Westminster’s "Liaison Committee," the super committee, if you like, formed from the heads of all its other committees.
But in reality, he faced no questions at all. Can a man that long ago liberated himself from the bonds of truth, that shook words free from the foundations of their meaning, ever really be said to have faced a single question?
To "face" a question implies an act of courage, that there is danger involved, just as one might face a fast bowler or a firing squad.
But Boris Johnson does not face questions. Theresa May used to face questions, and her response was to refuse to permit even the tiniest trace of an answer to escape her lips. Information was power, and she would not be yielding any of it, to anyone, under any circumstances. If anyone else was permitted to know anything, it would be harder for her to micromanage it.
It’s certainly not a new approach. When the Aaron Burr character in Hamilton sings, “Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for,” he succinctly summarises several centuries if not whole millennia of political strategy.
Boris Johnson takes a different approach, and it is an evolving one too. Not so long ago, his stated aim in TV interviews was to create a "yellow wall of noise". To treat them as if they were a specialised version of Just a Minute in which you must speak non-stop, but everything must be deviation.
Now, he appears to have concluded that if he gives, at various points, every possible answer that is available to a question, he cannot reasonably be expected to be held to account for any of them.
These days, if you were to ask Boris Johnson the time to the nearest hour, the answer you are likely to get is “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve”.
On the subject of the already full-blown crisis in testing, the prime minister likes to point out that this country is doing more testing than any other country in Europe, but that we are also not doing enough testing.
Last week, in an attempt to paper over not so much as the cracks but the aching chasms in the testing regime, he semi-revealed plans for Operation Moonshot, in which as yet uninvented technology could be deployed to perform “ten million tests a day”. Today, he told Labour’s Meg Hillier, “I do not recognise that figure”.
Last week, his Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis now notoriously said that the Internal Market Bill would “break international law in a limited and very specific way”. This week, his home secretary says it doesn’t break international law.
Today, Brandon Lewis said, contrary to widely briefed reports in the media, that he thought the EU was negotiating in “good faith”. Today, when asked if the EU were negotiating in bad faith, Boris Johnson said, “yes”. And when asked why he disagreed with his own cabinet on the subject, replied that they might know more about it than he did.
Once upon a time, the very long, rather more normal period of political life in this country, that came to an abrupt end just over four and a half years ago, it was nominally the job of people who spend all their time listening to politicians, to point out their inconsistencies. To show the public that one week they’d said one thing and another the next, that they couldn’t possibly hold two contradictory positions at once and that therefore, something was awry.
Don’t talk less. Talk more. Say absolutely anything and everything and no one can possibly hope to have a clue.