Eight things we learned from Boris Johnson’s debut Commons performance as PM
Mr Johnson began with tributes to Theresa May, before trashing her Withdrawal Agreement.
Here are eight things we learned from Boris Johnson’s debut Commons statement as Prime Minister.
1. He began with tributes to Theresa May and then just trashed her.
Mr Johnson rubbished the last prime minister’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the damning words: “No country that values its independence, and indeed its self-respect, could agree to a treaty which signed away our economic independence and self-government as this backstop does.”
Conveniently, he forgot to mention he actually voted for the deal when it was last put to the Commons.
2. But then detail has never been the big thing with Team Johnson as exemplified by one of his loudest Commons cheerleaders Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) who got to ask the new Prime Minister his first question from the backbenches.
Luckily, IDS was more in command of his facts than he had been earlier on radio when he described Home Secretary Priti Patel as being from “the sub-continent”.
She was actually born in Harrow.
— Priti Patel (@patel4witham) July 24, 2019
I am deeply honoured to be appointed as Home Secretary by our new Prime Minister @borisjohnson. Looking forward to working @ukhomeoffice to prepare our Country for leaving the EU, leading on matters of national security & public safety & keeping our borders secure.
3. Looks like a general election is around the corner.
The Tory leader used his first parliamentary set piece to road test and showcase his attack lines for the next national poll.
Short on specifics, heavy on spectacle, he promised to usher in a “golden age” and make Britain “the greatest place in the world”.
Piling into the Labour frontbench, Mr Johnson insisted: “We are the party of the people. We are the party of the many, they are the party of few. They will take this country backwards, we will take it forward.”
4. There were lots of policy commitments but precious little clarity on how they would be paid for.
But then Johnson’s pick as new Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak showed that numbers were not really a strong point of the new Cabinet when he tried to reassure people there was plenty of money in the jar to fund a no-deal exit.
Unfortunately forgetting the word “billion”, Mr Sunak proudly declared to the nation on Thursday: “We have around £26 of what’s called fiscal headroom” – a statement critics of leaving the EU without an agreement would insist was actually closer to the truth.
5. Deploying the term Remainer like it was a four letter word, the new Prime Minister accused Jeremy Corbyn of being taken over regarding his party’s attitude to a new referendum on an EU deal in the manner of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
But it was the Tory backbenchers who seemed to have been transformed as they erupted into applause and delighted shouts of “more” in response to Mr Johnson’s bombastic performance, in marked contrast to the living dead impression they usually gave to Mrs May’s turns at the despatch box.
6. Boris showed he has some nerve.
He accused shadow chancellor John McDonnell of being fired by Greater London Council leader Ken Livingstone for “forging a budget”.
Quite a statement from Mr Johnson, a man sacked from The Times for making up a quote, and dismissed from the shadow frontbench by Michael Howard amid claims he had misled the then Tory leader.
7. SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s greeting to Mr Johnson on the floor of the House was laced with political poison as he welcomed “the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom”.
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) July 25, 2019
The last PM of the UK has spoken in parliament, it was as bad as I feared. @BorisJohnson has shown he's dangerously deluded and deals regularly in falsehoods. He has been appointed not by this house, nor by the people, but by a hard right takeover of the Tories ��️: My Response �� pic.twitter.com/VpSHO5Wjcu
8. An attempted counterattack by Mr Corbyn brought up Mr Johnson’s stinging “f*** business” quote that the Prime Minister previously made in regards to EU withdrawal.
Some wondered if Mrs May’s notable absence from the chamber meant that she had adapted Mr Johnson’s infamous short sharp phrase and replaced the word ‘business’ with ‘Boris’.
Mrs May pointedly chose to watch the cricket rather than her successor’s parliamentary entry as Prime Minister.
The ex-PM also decided to spend her time at Lords with part of ‘the government in exile’ on the backbenches, notably David Gauke who quit as justice secretary rather than serve under Mr Johnson.
The move suggested Mrs May could be toying with joining what is known as the Gaukeward Squad of Tory grandees determined to thwart any attempt by the new premier to force through no deal.