Sir Keir Starmer turned the screws on a hapless Boris Johnson today at what could well be one of the latter’s final PMQs.
The Labour leader controlled the tempo of the session well. He began by relaying the shocking testimony of the man allegedly groped by Chris Pincher. You could hear a pin drop in the chamber. It meant Johnson’s upbeat bluster clashed with the mood even more than usual.
Starmer then dissected No.10’s shifting narrative of the Pincher affair and painted the PM’s operation as morally bankrupt.
Johnson countered that Starmer should hear what his own side are saying about him, and pointed to the seriousness of the economic crisis and events in Ukraine as reasons for needing a strong government.
Starmer even had a few zingers up his sleeve, calling the Cabinet “the charge of the lightweight brigade” and a “Z-list cast of nodding dogs”. And on resignations: “Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ships fleeing the rat?”
The response from Starmer’s benches was the most enthusiastic for weeks.
The PM then had to endure Sajid Javid’s blistering statement on his resignation, in which the former health secretary warned that Johnson’s leadership was putting Conservative values at risk. The reset button, he said, could only be hit so many times.
Even as the PM was speaking, more ships were fleeing. The junior housing minister, Stuart Andrew, and the home office minister, Victoria Atkins, were the latest to throw in the towel, joining 16 of their colleagues in saying enough is enough.
The good news for the PM is that he may not have to sit through many more grillings at the dispatch box. The 1922 Committee has a pre-scheduled meeting at 4pm. But Sir Graham Brady’s request for the 16-member executive committee to arrive promptly suggests it’s anything but routine.
Rebels believe the rules that give Johnson at least 11 months until a fresh confidence vote could be changed then and there. If this happens, a vote could follow next week. Hold onto your hats.