Boris Johnson was greeted with rapturous cheers from Conservative MPs and declared that “nothing and no-one” can stop him in his first Prime Minister’s Questions since surviving a no-confidence vote.
Sir Keir Starmer attempted to trample the Prime Minister after 148 Conservative MPs voted to oust him as leader. The Labour leader said he “couldn’t make out whether that introductory noise was cheers or boos”. He later added: “I wished they were this organised on Monday.”
He questioned Johnson over a tweet sent by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to fellow MP Jeremy Hunt, where she inadvertently accused the Tories of being underprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.
“Twenty-four hours at A&E used to be a TV programme. Now it’s his policy,” Starmer told Johnson, although was urged several times by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, alongside Johnson, to “calm down”.
Johnson’ riposte was that the Leader of the Opposition “doesn’t have a leg to stand on” and accused the “Party of [Nye] Bevan” of being “tragically opposed” to the health and social care levy.
Johnson then praised the government for Europe’s fastest vaccine rollout, which he claimed would “not have been possible” under Labour.
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The SNP’s Ian Blackford was more direct in his questioning of Johnson, accusing him of being a “lame-duck PM presiding over a divided party in a disunited kingdom” and acting like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Later in the session, Tory backbenchers pleaded with Johnson to take action on numerous issues. Esther McVey called on ministers to scrap HS2, while others cited housing developments and rail investment as areas Downing Street must focus on following Monday’s rebellion.
Dame Angela Eagle’s line on whether the PM’s “own backbenchers don’t trust him” will likely dominate PMQs for weeks to come. Nevertheless, given the PM’s torrid week so far, Number 10 will be pleased with today’s spectacle in the Commons and will hope to keep the momentum going.