4 min read
Boris Johnson has vowed to “keep going” during a turbulent Prime Minister’s Questions which saw him repeatedly urged to resign from Downing Street.
Facing questions about his handling of the Chris Pincher scandal, he repeated his claim he “greatly regrets” allowing the Tory MP to remain in government after admitting he was made aware of allegations made against him.
Following a bruising 24 hours, Johnson said: “I have already said I regret very much that Pincher continued to hold office after the complaint was made against him in the Foreign Office. It was resolved in the Foreign Office.
“In hindsight, I should have realized he would not have changed.”
He added: “I want to say to him that I abhor bullying and abuse of power anywhere in Parliament, in this party or in any other party.”
Johnson did not deny previously making the jibe that the disgraced MP was “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.”
In a defiant response to hostile questions, he said he planned to continue in his role, telling MPs: “The job of a Prime Minister in difficult circumstances when he has been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going and that’s what I’m going all.”
But Labor leader Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of “ignoring” the behavior and said those who had resigned did not have a “shred of integrity” after previously defending Johnson.
“Doesn’t that just sum him up? Awful behaviour, unacceptable in any walk of life. It is there for all to see, but he ignores it,” he said.
“Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ships fleeing the rat?”
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“It was the same when his ally was on the take from the lobbyists. It was the same when his Home Secretary was bullying staff. It was the same when taxpayers money was being abused. And it was the same when he and his mates partied through lockdown.”
He added: “Anyone quitting now after defending all that hasn’t got a shred of integrity. Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ships fleeing the rats?”
And in a further criticism of other Tory MPs, Starmer added: “As for those who are left, only in office because no one else is prepared to debase themselves any longer; the charge of the lightweight brigade.
“Have some self respect. For a week, he’s had them defending his decision to promote a sexual predator. Every day the lines he’s forced them to take have been untrue.”
He added: “Anyone with anything about them would be long gone from his front bench. In the middle of a crisis, doesn’t the country deserve better than a Z-list cast of nodding dogs.”
Johnson has been hit by a wave of resignations following the shock departure of Rishi Sunak as Chancellor and Sajid Javid as Health Secretary on Tuesday evening.
They resigned following the Prime Minister’s apology for appointing Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip, despite admitting he was aware of a number of complaints about his behaviour.
Five junior ministers have since quit, while a number of Parliamentary Private Secretaries – the bottom rung of the government payroll – have also left their jobs.
Johnson has so far kept the support of other senior Cabinet figures, but is facing a significant back bench rebellion with a number of formerly loyal Tory MPs expressing their intention to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister. These include Lee Anderson and Jonathan Gullis, widely regarded as some of Johnson’s most vocal supporters.
Speaking on Wednesday, newly appointed Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi attempted to shore up support for Johnson, saying serving in government was a “team game.”
“You play for the team and you deliver for the nation,” he told Sky News. “Our focus has to be on delivery. Sometimes walking away may give you some respite…but the idea you have to deliver for the country – a country that’s given me, given my family everything, is the right thing to do.”
Under the party’s current rules, Johnson is safe for nearly a year from facing another challenge to oust him by MPs following his success in last month’s vote of no confidence. But the party’s ruling 1922 Committee could force through a rule change, allowing another confidence challenge to be held within the coming days.
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