Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Barnstorming performance as unrepentant Boris Johnson comes out fighting

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)
Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Boris Johnson was never going to don sackcloth and ashes but the bravado and bolshiness he showed in the House of Commons last night was remarkable.

There wasn't an ounce of repentance from the Prime Minister as he faced MPs following the Supreme Court ruling.

Rather than offering Dominic Cummings' head on a plate as some have demanded, Johnson is obviously heeding his chief adviser's counsel that there is only one strategy - "attack, attack, attack".

He sounded like a general in a war room as he defended his decision to prorogue Parliament, and rained verbal missiles on Opposition heads.

Tory Brexiteer MPs and the party's grassroots loved it. Others were appalled.

With Downing Street's Brexit policy on the ropes following the Supreme Court ruling, a barnstorming Boris performance was needed, and he certainly delivered.

Remainers accused him of inflammatory language. Time and time again Labour MPs denounced the Prime Minister. A "sorry" and some humility was needed, they said. If Johnson has a reverse gear on Brexit, he was hiding it well yesterday.

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He accused the Opposition parties of cowardice in refusing to table a confidence motion in his Government or vote for a general election.

The phrases "surrender act", "running away" and "dither and delay" were employed countless times.

His opponents harboured the "extraordinary delusion" that there would be a second referendum where everybody would vote Remain, he claimed.

It was an even greater fantasy than "the communist fantasies" of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader was a target for relentless ridicule. Johnson suggested he personally wanted an election but was being "muzzled" by senior members of his party.

"It seems he did want to call an election - there's a passage in his speech calling for an election now missing," Johnson declared. "It was censored by the Stasi in the form of the shadow chancellor.

"The right honourable gentleman is being gagged, he is being muzzled, he is being held captive by his colleagues.

"They won't let him say what he wants to say. I say 'Free the Islington One!'"

Not only did Tory MPs whoop and cheer, but they applauded when Johnson ended.

Corbyn's response to the tirade was statesman-like, not snarling. Johnson's statement to the House was like his "illegal shutting down of Parliament - null, of no effect and should be quashed". The Labour leader said he had just listened to "10 minutes of bluster from a dangerous Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law".

Corbyn denied he was scared to go to the polls. If Johnson wanted an election, let him secure an Article 50 extension from the EU and "let's have an election", he said.

Corbyn may have been measured and meticulous in the face of Johnson's onlsaught but the lack of passion in his delivery must surely concern his supporters. It all sounded a little limp.

Johnson's aggressive style was widely denounced in the chamber by those who think he is more circus performer than Prime Minister.

But the only audience that matters is the electorate.

Eventually we will get their verdict on whether he is reckless or rightly robust.

Belfast Telegraph

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