Saturday, 25 June 2022 – 19:07

PMQs: Johnson insists he will remain and “get on with the job”

The Prime Minister has dismissed renewed calls for him to resign at the first PMQs since the parliamentary Easter recess.

In a heated session in which the Prime Minister struggled, and arguably failed, to stay calm, opposition leaders renewed calls for Johnson to resign in the first PMQs since the Prime Minister was issued a fixed penalty notice for breaching lockdown restrictions. 

Keir Starmer opened by listing various government officials who had resigned for breaching lockdown rules, including those who the Prime Minister had condemned the actions of. Included among them was Allegra Stratton, former No. 10 spokesperson who resigned after footage emerged of her joking about a rule-breaking party.

Starmer said:

“Allegra Stratton laughed at breaking the rules. She resigned. The Prime Minister then claimed he was furious at her behaviour and accepted her resignation.”

“Professor Neil Fergusson broke the rules. He also resigned. The Prime Minister said ‘that was the right thing to do’.”

“The former Health Secretary broke the rules; he too resigned. The Prime Minister tried to claim he’d sacked him!”

“Why does the Prime Minister think everybody else’s actions have consequences except his own?”

Johnson, predictably, deflected from the question with his familiar spiel about “getting the job done” and “delivering on promises” before accusing Starmer of “intellectual bankruptcy”, the first of several attacks he made against the Labour leader throughout the session.

Starmer retorted:

“Yesterday’s apology lasted as long as the Prime Minister thought necessary to be clipped for the news. But once the cameras were off … he went back to blaming everyone else.”

Accusations were then aimed at the Prime Minister, accusing him of levelling insults against the Archbishop of Canterbury for his criticism of the government’s plan to transfer refugees to Rwanda, and also for allegedly claiming that the BBC was not being critical enough of Putin and Russia in its coverage of the conflict in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister claimed that he was surprised to be criticised for the Rwanda policy, although considering that he previously said that he was expecting legal challenges from human rights lawyers, and immediately received widespread criticism from those on both sides of the house for the policy suggests that such criticism was more than expected.

Regarding the alleged criticism of the BBC, Johnson said:

“I said nothing of the kind. I have the highest admiration, as a journalist and a former journalist, for what journalists do.”

“I did not attack the BBC … for their coverage of Ukraine… He must be out of his tiny mind!”

Amusingly he twice called Starmer a “Corbynista in an Islington suit”. Since standing down from leading the Labour party after the 2019 elections, Corbyn has remained a prominent figure in the Conservative party’s rhetoric, being portrayed as an ever-present bogeyman to symbolise whatever position the government is currently opposed to, regardless of its actual resemblance to Corbyn’s policies. The claim was especially strange as Starmer has conducted a broad ‘purge’ of both the left-wing of the Labour party membership and MPs who had been Corbyn allies, as well as removing the whip from the Islington-North MP, in an attempt to distance himself and the party from its former leader.

Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford said:

“The Prime Minister might have convinced his backbenchers and his spineless Scottish tories to keep him in place for another few weeks, but the public aren’t so easily fooled. 82% of people in Scotland believe the Prime Minister lied to this Parliament, and to the public. Are they right? or should they not believe their lying eyes?”

“No government can be led by a Prime Minister who is in a constant state of crisis to save his own skin.”

“The UK government is now led by a tag team of scandal. A Prime Minister who can’t be trusted with the truth, and a Chancellor who can’t be trusted with his taxes.”

“Everyone knows that this Prime Minister is living on borrowed time… in the meantime, families are counting the cost of the tory-made cost-of-living-crisis everyday. After yesterday’s farce isn’t it finally the time to accept that neither his party nor the public can afford to keep him around as Prime Minister for one minute longer.”

Johnson once again replied that he was going to continue “getting on with the job”.

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