ALTHOUGH we are in the middle of a pandemic, politics never goes away, as shown by the tetchy encounter over the Despatch Box at Prime Ministers Questions between Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

We are also in the middle of a fascinating battle over the reputation of this Government and the Prime Minister.

On the one hand, many things went badly wrong last year in Britain’s handling of the virus, and so we are now have the third highest death rate in the world. That must weigh very heavily on Boris Johnson.

On the other hand, we have a genuinely world-beating vaccination programme, with the Government well on course to hit its target of delivering 15m first jabs by the middle of this month. It is a fabulous effort, and yesterday, the World Health Organisation even gave a big boost to the reputation of the Oxford vaccine which is set to become the vaccine which rescues much of the world from the virus.

Without the success of the vaccine, Mr Johnson wouldn’t have been able to tetchily bat off Mr Starmer, and Conservative candidates in May’s elections would be feeling very uncomfortable. The success of the vaccine has, for the time being at least, inoculated Mr Johnson against much of Mr Starmer's criticism.