Having tested positive for coronavirus Keir Starmer is now self-isolating for a fifth time, albeit this is the first time he has himself tested positive. A tweet from his Twitter account just 47 minutes prior to PMQs does not lend any clues to his looming absence (see below).
In the photograph attached to the tweet Starmer is seated between his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and her deputy Bridget Phillipson. As it is light outside we can only assume that it was taken on the same morning. Until recently both individuals would have been required to self-isolate following Starmer's positive test. They no longer need to if they are fully vaccinated, which is what we can assume considering that when it came to Labour's response to the Budget on Wednesday afternoon it was provided in person by Reeves - with Phillipson sat behind her.
|Rachel Reeves responds to Rishi Sunak, with Phillipson on her left|
Of course they can still catch the virus and transmit it, which does make a mockery of the rule change (and also the notion of vaccine passports).
As Starmer tested positive via a lateral flow test and is not displaying symptoms, there is a very good chance - as much as 50 per cent - that he does not have the virus anyway. Our own Richey Edwards was informed by NHS track and trace recently that lateral flow tests are at best only 60 per cent reliable.
The most obvious question arising from this week's PMQs is why Starmer anointed Ed Miliband as his substitute. Angela Rayner stood in for him last time, but this week she was nowhere to be seen on the front benches. On Tuesday Starmer denied that he was keeping her sidelined following recent criticism, telling Good Morning Britain that her absence was due to a bereavement. Is it just a coincidence that this appears to have coincided precisely with the murder of David Amess? Her Twitter account fell silent the day that Amess was murdered and she has not been heard of since.
A period of bereavement? Or, if the Mail on Sunday is to be believed, a period of penance imposed by Starmer in relation to her 'Tory scum' remarks?