Boris Johnson said he was “sorry”, but by the end of the harsh day in the House of Commons, it was the British Prime Minister’s supporters who were in despair as the “party door” scandal engulfed his presidency.
The Johnson Commons performance, a loud combination of remorse and challenge, aimed to unite Tory MPs after weeks of party stories to break the blockade on Downing Street; instead, it turned out to have the opposite effect.
A normally loyal and longtime Tory MP called Johnson’s performance a “complete and complete train crash”, adding that the prime minister’s future was back online: “The mood is utterly desperate”.
Johnson hoped that this would be the time to escape the cheap wine and picnic saga and return to the world stage; instead, he had to postpone talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to strengthen his own position.
Although Johnson initially apologized to lawmakers for “things we didn’t fix,” the House of Commons mood turned against him the longer he stood in front of the shipping box.
Theresa May, a former prime minister, asked coldly whether Johnson had read or understood the Covid-19 rules he had made, or simply thought they did not apply to number 10.
Andrew Mitchell, the former Tory chief whip who supported Johnson for the Tory leadership in 2019, solemnly declared that he “no longer enjoys my support.”
The prime minister’s allies were suddenly alarmed at the possibility of a report by senior government official Sue Gray to the parties, far from being a temporary account that is far from an intermediate account but could be the cause of a leadership challenge.
In response to Gray Johnson’s remarks, he insisted he would shake Downing Street and impose a strict new code of conduct on officials and advisers, but Keir Starmer said it was just a case of the prime minister blaming others: “They’re leaving, he’s remains. “
The Labor leader called on Tory MPs to take responsibility and remove a prime minister who is “unfit for office”, calling Johnson a “shameless man”.
He added that at every step, the prime minister had “insulted the intelligence of society” and said: “There is no doubt that the prime minister is the subject of a criminal investigation.”
Johnson objected to a statement that had previously been circulated on social media that Starmer, when he was director of the prosecutor’s office, had failed to prosecute the sex offender and television personality Jimmy Saville.
Minutes later, Nazir Afzal, the Crown’s former Attorney General for the Northwest, responded on Twitter to say that Johnson was “disgraceful.” “It’s not true,” Afzal said. “I was there. Keir Starmer had nothing to do with the decisions made. On the contrary, he supported me in bringing 100 child abusers to justice.
Insiders on Downing Street said Johnson had been called in advance not to make the claim.
The prime minister’s counterattack soon hit the sand. He repeatedly refused to assure Conservative MPs that Gray’s full report to the Downing Street parties would be published once the capital’s police had finished their work.
Alarmed on Downing Street over growing Tory unrest, Johnson’s spokesman later turned around and said the final report would still be published.
The prime minister also declined to say whether he attended a party in his own apartment on November 13, 2020, which is now the subject of a criminal investigation by police. “You have to wait for the investigation,” was his refrain.
Johnson had previously insisted that there had been no violation of the law that night: the alleged celebrations marked the dismissal of Dominic Cummings, once an adviser to the prime minister and now his main torturer.
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, violated the Municipal Convention when he said: “The Prime Minister lied and misled the House of Representatives.”
More disturbing to Johnson were the stony expressions of the Conservative MPs behind him and the sight of newly elected Tory MPs – along with veterans like May and Mitchell – speaking out against him.
Aaron Bell, elected in 2019, told the quiet House of Commons that he attended his grandmother’s funeral with only 10 present: “I could not hug my brothers and sisters or my parents,” he said. “Does the prime minister think I’m a fool?”
A senior Tory MP emerged from the remnants of the prime minister’s statement in despair: “He made us all look corrupt and made the country feel like a fool,” he said.