Boris Johnson tells MPs he will not resign over Downing Street parties
BBC Parliament

We've said it before and we'll say it again: a week is a long time in politics.

Just last Wednesday, Johnson stood up in the House of Commons, minutes before PMQs, and admitted he attendedthat garden drinks party in May 2020, apologised, but said he believed it was "a work event"- triggering both anger from the public and at least a little curiosity from this writer at least about how fun working for Downing Street might actually be...

Since then, around seven Tories have publicly broken ranks and called for Johnson to resign from his role as, ahem,'Big Dog' as more and more Partygate revelations drag the Conservatives down in the polls, Christian Wakeford defected to Labour this morning while Johnson was probably still putting on his tie, and it has been reported that a number of other MPs are scribbling letters of no-confidence to Sir Graham Brady.

If 54 are stuffed through his letterbox, Johnson will face a no-confidence vote and he might have to strip his flat of its golden wallpaper and call it a day as PM. Like we say, it's been a busy week.

Today, Johnson was probably ready to face more of the same while Keir Starmer was likely feeling pretty confident with the task ahead but how did the little chinwag between the two-party leaders go? We'll be the judge of that:

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Starmer: "Can I start by warmly welcoming the new member for Bury South... Like so many people up and down the country, he has concluded that the prime minister and the Conservative party are incapable of offering the leadership the country deserves..." 8/10

Way to kick a (big) dog while it's down. Starmer mocked Johnson over the loss of his MP, Wakeford, and welcomed him to the party with glee. Some on the left have said it is wrong for the Labour party to celebrate a Tory joining their ranks as it makes the party more 'blue'.

But ultimately, for the Labour party to win an election, blue voters need to turn red and changing one's mind shouldn't be cause for chastisement. For this to happen on a parliamentary level is incredibly embarrassing for the prime minister and will surely cause voters to think twice about their own opinions. Starmer was right to celebrate it.


Starmer: "I'm sure the chief whip has told them to bring their own booze." 7/10

As the house jeered and laughed and the speaker of the house Sir Lindsay Hoyle was forced to tell them to put a sock in it, Starmer took the opportunity to quip again, referencing details of the May 2020 garden party. Low hanging fruit, but worth picking.

Johnson: "Of course we must wait for the outcome of the inquiry." 3/10

Next, Starmer quizzed the PM on his fast-changing defences about the alleged and confirmed events and rather than last week - in which Johnson mainly apologised and told Starmer to wait for the Sue Gray inquiry - he added another refrain back from his PMQs classics and droned on about all the things the government has done well like vaccines, and said the Labour party would still have us in lockdown(it wouldn't.)

People are bored of hearing the name Sue Gray, (no offence to her) and are bored of the government refusing to take proper responsibility until the inquiry is complete.


Johnson: "As for Bury South... the Conservative party won Bury South for the first time in generations." 4/10

Johnson was clearly rattled by Starmer's earlier jibe as he took the opportunity to retort about the Tories winning the seat in 2019. Too bad it's now a Labour seat then.

Starmer: "It almost sounds like a lawyer wrote it." 7/10

Next, Starmer outlined all the defences Johnson has previously made about the Downing Street parties and mocked him for his carefully worded statement to parliament last week about the parties. Ouch.

Starmer: "As he waded through the empty bottles and platters of sandwiches, he didn't realise it was a party, does the prime minister realise how ridiculous that sounds?" 8/10

Another easy joke from Starmer as he continued to mock the prime minister over his defence and make him feel very small indeed. Johnson responded by bringing up a picture of Starmer drinking a beer in between work meetings and even called him "irrelevant", accusing him of "wasting" people and parliament's time, which is a bit rich.

Starmer: "I know it's not going well.. but at least the staff at Number 10 know how to pack a suitcase!" 10/10

Easily the best line of the session. Referencing claims that Downing Street staff went to the Co-op to fill a suitcase with wine for a party held on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, Starmer called on Johnson to resign again and pack up his things. While he got reprimanded by the speaker for bringing up the Royal Family, it was still clear who came off worse in the exchange - Johnson.

Verdict

This rowdy edition of PMQs went a bit like this: "Party, party, party, inquiry, inquiry, inquiry, jab jab, jab".

In Groundhog Day scenes from last week, Starmer consistently hammered Johnson over the continued scandal and called on him to resign.

Meanwhile, Johnson also repeated his script from last week in telling everyone to wait for Gray's report but shifted the tone slightly by tiring of apologising and instead celebrating the vaccine rollout and other buzzword policies.

The Commons was packed and it seemed that Hoyle spoke even more than Johnson and Starmer put together, as he was constantly slapping MPs on the wrist for their jeers and jibes from the sidelines.

Despite the noise, Starmer seemed relaxed and comfortable and ready to joke around, while Johnson seemed flustered and irritated and bored of the scandal.

Too bad. The fallout continues and Johnson can't change the record just because he'd rather listen to something else.

Starmer wins again.


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