Perhaps the highlight of my week was the aerial view of Boris Johnson’s bottom on the front page of a Sunday newspaper as he dropped to the floor and did a few press-ups to validate his claim that he was “as fit as a butcher’s dog”.

So, OK, highlight may be over-egging it a bit, but lockdown narrows your horizons. In any case, well done to the Mail for a media first: the PM’s backside as the lead image. That’s the Pulitzers sewn up.

On the upside, he was at least clothed, which is just as well because frankly that’s an angle that should be available only to spouses and proctologists. Mind you, there are some people who have been longing to see the back of him.

I trust we can expect more of the same over the coming weeks. The Mail Online is full of minor celebrities trying to keep their brand alive in lockdown with daily pictures of themselves on Instagram in bikinis, so I don’t see why we can’t get a regular supply from the prime minister. Boris Johnson showcases his killer abs; PM flashes his enviable pins in a scruffy pair of shorts as he heads off for a jog; premier shows no trace of side boob as he locks down Leicester.

With the abandonment of the daily coronavirus briefing, perhaps we can instead head to Downing Street for the PM’s daily workout. “Can we have the first slide please? As you can see, there were 46 new push-ups today and 25 star jumps. As we know, this number is always a bit lower at weekends.”

Maybe the cabinet can join in too — it would definitely liven up the morning radio round. “So Mr Hancock, we want 20 sit-ups while you talk us through the new quarantine rules.” In fact, all political announcements should be made from a Peloton bike, with a personal trainer screaming, “Go on now, let’s get Brexit done.” It would be great on big parliamentary occasions too. “OK Rishi, 10 more seconds, then commend this Budget to the House.”

Obviously I’m glad the PM is recovering well, although, incidentally I’ve never understood why butchers’ dogs are supposed to be fit. Presumably they sit around the shop all day stuffing their faces, which would definitely run counter to Johnson’s avowed aim of launching a new anti-obesity drive to counteract the one he nixed shortly after becoming PM.

Anyway, back to the first bottom. It was a curious image. I don’t mean his backside is odd. It was in a loose-fitting pair of trousers, so was mercifully low-definition but — and back me up on this — he’s not exactly the guy from Normal People.

It clearly rattled the opposition though because, a day later, Keir Starmer was joking that perhaps they should face off across the despatch box. It is not exactly what the Commons was designed for but as long as they stay out of Lycra, it can’t be any worse than George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother.

What is it in the alpha male psyche of political leaders that they cannot see another MP doing exercise without needing to show they can do better? Imagine how soul-destroying it must have been for them when Seb Coe was an MP. (Actually, I once sprinted past Coe. I was late for a meeting and running down the Commons corridor when I overtook a youngish MP ambling along. On noticing who it was, I reflected happily that not many can say they left him for dead while running. Mind you, we do have four Olympic medals between us.)

I guess Vladimir Putin is to blame, with those judo and topless horse-riding photos. (Just to be clear it was the Russian president who was topless, the horse was in full uniform). At least against such strongman poses, Johnson’s push-ups look decidedly democratic.

There was a serious purpose to the nonsense. The PM’s press team have been deeply unhappy at suggestions he had not fully recovered, so I suppose the stunt did its job. But there is, I hate to point out, a certain incongruity in knocking out a few press-ups in the week that he spent time trying to rebrand himself as Britain’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

If there’s one thing everyone knows about FDR, it’s that he didn’t do push-ups. His fitness for office was measured against a somewhat higher metric.

Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley and email him at

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