From Newcastle’s takeover to wage deferral dramas, obsessions with the bottom line are in sharp focus without on-field action

Sir Keir Starmer’s first outing at prime minister’s questions in midweek was enlightening, in a number of ways. The content of his exchanges with the government’s stand-in shot-stopper Dominic Raab is best discussed outside the sports pages – though I’d summarise it as a knight against the benighted – but the atmosphere also intrigued. For there was hardly anybody there, a scant scattering of suited souls in the historic old chamber while the rest called in their questions, a situation that contrasted with the appearances in the same forum of some modern PMs, who have metaphorically phoned in their answers.

The absence of so many people resulted in a lack of the noise and bluster they normally bring with them. The whole thing was of course less of a spectacle as a result – with not as much to see and hear to distract us from the fact that watching a bloke talk evasively is not in itself particularly exciting – but also more instructive. With nothing to watch but the action, and denied the shortcut of ranking contributions by the amount of cheering and paper-waving they provoke, observers were left with no way of judging anything except by its own merits.

Related: Broadcast rights trump human rights in Premier League's Newcastle battleground | Jonathan Liew

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