50 of the best ever takedowns of the Tory government

50 of the best ever takedowns of the Tory government
Rory Stewart says it's 'very disturbing' that Boris Johnson was ever elected

When Tory MPs talk nonsense, it is up to their opponents to take them down.

Over the past 12 years, this has paved the way to some epic rants, with people laying into the party on everything from Partygate to the cost of living crisis, to Brexit and more.

When feeling particularly despondent about the state of the country and its governance, it might be helpful to look back at the greatest hits, a comfort blanket in a difficult age.

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So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are 50 of the most savage descriptions of Tories that we have seen in recent times:

1. Ian Hislop rips into Boris Johnson over Partygate

In April 2021, Hislop ranted about Johnson after the PM was fined over Partygate.

He said: "He's done a fulsome apology. The world 'fulsome' means insincere, over the top, not meant.

He continued: “He’s resigned. Why hasn’t Boris? Why hasn’t Rishi? Why hasn’t Carrie? Are you allowed to resign as his wife?

"And why hasn’t the entire Tory party resigned, all of them? They supported him, why don’t they leave now? They’re the party of law and order."

Fair question.

2. Journalist calls Johnson's Partygate apology "a conveyor belt of lies"

At a similar time, journalist Ian Dunt said he didn't believe Johnson's apologies were genuine.

"There is no way you can take any of this stuff seriously, we knew exactly what we were going through at the time," he said.

"No-one was under any illusions as to how the rules operated it was the subject of conversation everyday."

"No-one thought that you could have a birthday party with your partner and your work colleagues and cake whenever you liked, let alone the person who wrote the law, so for him to say it now isn't just morally abysmal but is like a libel against our intellect. He's treating us like absolute fools."

"Its like this endless conveyor belt of lies", he added.

3. Tories told to "just go"

A Tory voter told the party she formerly supported to "just go" in a scathing speech on BBC Question Time in March 2022.

Addressing security minister Damian Hinds during a conversation about the cost of living crisis, the audience member said she was "disappointed" in the government and laid into it for "the mess" she said it has made.

She said:

"I can't tell you how disappointed I am with your government, I really can't express in words the mess you made.

"I sat through the pandemic and I watched money be hemorrhaged away, money that we could well do with now.

"I think you are out of touch, you are dealing in millions and millions and trillions of pounds. You know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

"We're up to there in debt, wishing we were taller.

"I don't know what to say to you other than the lot of you just go, just go. And this is from someone who voted for you. What a disappointment you are."

4. Nick Ferrari slams Priti Patel and Liz Truss over their handling of Ukraine

After a series of Ukraine mistakes, Ferrari made a brutal intervention on LBC in March. He said: "Playtime is over. Off you go. You're not up to it, get them both out, and get in some grownups.

"Why should we have to live with this incompetence as we watch mothers and babies being shelled and losing their lives?"

5. Denmark's former PM laughs at minister

Denmark's former prime minister laughed after a conservative minister claimed that Russia will see the UK as "leading" against its invasion in Ukraine during an episode of Question Time.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who led her country from 2011 to 2015, clashed with education secretary Nadhim Zahawi and said: "You said something that almost made me chuckle before when you said that Putin will think that the UK is leading the efforts against Russia right now - of course it's not, the European Union is leading the effort against Russia so I don't think they'll see Boris Johnson as a particular leader in this field so set that straight."

She added: "It's just because you said that Russia will see UK as a leader and I don't know why they would do that, so that's one thing," she said before chuckling.

6. Campaigner accuses Tories of rebuilding the economy "on the bodies of dead people"

Speaking on Politics Livein 2022 about the cost of living crisis, the campaigner and food writer Jack Monroe told business minister Paul Scully how austerity had impacted the lives of vulnerable people and accused his party of rebuilding the economy "on the bodies of dead people".

"The economy has been rebuilt, what little green shoots we have, has been rebuilt, has been on the bodies of the dead people who are no longer with us because they have been failed by the department of work and pensions," she said.

7. Minister called out over Ukraine

When the government claimed the reason why it was not taking more Ukrainian refugees was that Ukraine is further away from the UK than other countries, people were sceptical. Sky News journalist Kamali Melbourne called transport minister Grant Shapps out on the issue and said the government's handling of the crisis was "shameful". He said: "The geographical thing doesn't quite work when Ireland's taken some 2,000 people and people in Calais are stuck at the border unable to come in."

It made for awkward viewing.

8. Alistair Campbell lays into Johnson over Partygate

During one of the many times Partygate has dominated the news, former director of communications for Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell, let rip on Sky News. He said: “I think that Johnson is showing - as I always thought he would be – he is an utter disgrace to the office. His cabinet are compounding that every time they go out and defend him.

“It’s a distraction for the country and there’s massive issues that we face, and he’s a global embarrassment.

“These Tory MPs, every single day that they prop him up, they are doing themselves damage, they are doing their party damage – about which I don’t give a damn – but worse, they’re doing the country and our reputation enormous damage.”

At the end of all that, host Kay Burley joked: “I wish you wouldn’t mince your words.”

9. Ian Blackford kicked out of the commons for saying Johnson 'misled' the house

Partygate again. In February the SNP leader kept saying Johnson "misled". Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle asked him to withdraw his comment and replace it with “inadvertently”, instead of just “misled the House”. Blackford responded: “It’s not my fault if the prime minister can’t be trusted to tell the truth.”

He was promptly told to do one after that mic drop moment.

10. Gary Neville calls Tories 'rancid mob'

Gary Neville called the Tory party “the mob” after they lost their 200 year old North Shropshire seat to the Liberal Democrats in a by-election held following the resignation of Tory MP Owen Paterson caused by his lobbying scandal.

He said:

11. Gary Neville's Euros dig about Johnson

The former footballer also made a subtle dig about Johnson last summer...

Commentating on ITV after England won in the semi-final of Euro 2020 against Denmark, Neville celebrated the win and praised England’s manager Gareth Southgate in particular - comparing him to those in Downing Street.

He said: “The standard of the leaders in the past couple of years in this country has been poor but look at that man there... he’s everything a leader should be: respectful, humble, tells the truth, genuine. He’s fantastic, Gareth Southgate”

12. Dan Steven's surprising rant

Actor Dan Stevens took everyone by surprise when he turned a promo of his new TV show about Richard Nixon Gaslit on the One Show into a chance to slag off Johnson.

He said: “What you’ve got is a criminal for a leader who is wrapped in a messy war, embroiled in a stupid scandal and surrounded by ambitious idiots and really should resign."

He then paused and said: "I’m sorry that’s the intro to Boris Johnson.” The moment caused hosts Jermaine Jenas and Alex Jones to gasp before Stevens seamlessly went right back into promoting his new series.

13. Matt Baker asks David Cameron how he sleeps at night

Speaking of, in 2011 the One Show also became a home for political savagery.

In an interview on the show, Baker absolutely savaged Cameron when he, with a smile, and after thanking the then prime minister for appearing on the show asked: "Just very quickly, how on earth do you sleep at night?"

"Erm, I've always been able to sleep OK," Cameron replied awkwardly.

"At the end of the day if you are exhausted you will make the wrong decisions."

14. Jacob Rees-Mogg gets a savage introduction

In 2019 when the government prorogued parliament (a move that turned out to be unlawful, by the way), Krishnan Guru-Murphy captured the mood of the nation perfectly with a dry introduction that made Jacob Rees-Mogg squirm.

Guru-Murphy said: "I am joined by Jacob Rees-Mogg and it's our first chance to speak to him since he was appointed as leader of the Commons, flew to Scotland to get the Queen's approval for unlawfully proroguing parliament and then watched us all unravel in what he's supposed to have called a constitutional coup.

"In a moment I will ask him what he thinks the new masterplan is that will get Brexit done."

15. Brexit flip-flopper called out

Rees-Mogg wasn't the only Brexiteer MP to feel the force of Guru-Murphy's sharp tongue.

Earlier in 2019 Ben Bradley, a politician who had previously backed Remain, until he changed his mind... a few times, appeared on the show.

Guru-Murphy summed up his voting record perfectly. He said: "The conservative MP Ben Bradley is in the House of Commons. He voted to remain, then became a Brexiteer, then voted against the deal, then voted for the deal, then said he’d struggled to back the deal again but now says he will back the deal."

16. Johnson replaced with an ice sculpture

Sometimes takedowns don't even need to happen in words. When Johnson didn't turn up for a leader's debate on climate change in 2019, and tried to ask the then environment secretary Michael Gove to go instead, he was empty-chaired with an ice sculpture by Channel 4.

The Tories complained to regulator Ofcom but Ofcom said the channel had "editorial freedom" to do so.

17. Amber Rudd calls Johnson "Trumpian"

During a parliamentary debate that followed the (partial) publication of Sue Gray's inquiry into alleged lockdown breaching parties in Downing Street, a flustered Johnson randomly attacked Starmer for not prosecuting Jimmy Savile when he was the director of public prosecutions. The claim was false - Stamer was not the lawyer overseeing the case.

Former home secretary Amber Rudd said Johnson's remarks were "a disgraceful thing to say" and "a Trumpian response to try and deflect from himself and use something so outrageous so that people will talk about that rather than the big issue".

18. Rory Stewart accuses Dorries of "Trumpian shabbiness"

Former Tory MP Rory Stewart said a Channel 4 interview with Nadine Dorries displayed "sheer tawdry Trumpian shabbiness".

At the time, the culture minister was defending Johnson over the above Savile remarks in a disastrous broadcast round, saying "the prime minister tells the truth".

"There are lots of things that Keir Starmer shouldn’t have said," she also said when she was pushed on the issue.

19. Dawn Butler calls Johnson out for "lying"

Blackford isn't the only MP who has been kicked out of the house for questioning Johnson's intentions. In July last year, Dawn Butler ripped into the PM over his handling of the pandemic and said: “Poor people in our country have paid with their lives because the Prime Minister has spent the last 18 months misleading this House and the country over and over again."

She added he "has lied to this House time and time again."

She was asked to leave parliament and was flooded with supportive messages.

20. Eddie Mair calls Johnson "a nasty piece of work"

Let's take a time machine to 2013, when Johnson was the mayor of London and met his match with Eddie Mair after evidence appearing to show Johnson discussing whether to hand over the details of a journalist to his friend Darius Guppy so Guppy could have him "physically assaulted" was in the news.

The broadcaster said: " What does that say about you, Boris Johnson? Making up quotes., lying to your party leader, wanting to be part of someone being physically assaulted - you're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?"

No comment.

21. Emily Thornberry weighs in on the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal

Emily Thornberry slammed Conservative MPs for voting to change the system for disciplining MPs and blocking the suspension of Owen Paterson, labelling it corruption that “would make Donald Trump blush”.

“They can do whatever they like, they are not accountable to anyone and this is what happens when you have a majority of 80 and you have a government with no shame,” she said.

The government eventually u-turned and Paterson resigned.

22. Caroline Lucas savages Johnson

And when he did, Caroline Lucas found time to stick the boot in and say the problem was more than just Paterson.

“You can’t just go around changing the rules when you don’t like them and that’s exactly what this prime minister is doing and it goes much wider, sadly than just Owen Paterson,” she said, speaking on Question Time.

“This is a prime minister who cares nothing for parliamentary standards or for decency or for the rule of law.”

“He himself, of course, is the biggest problem of all,” adding that it is difficult to hold to account because “he lies repeatedly”.

“Tory sleaze is back and it’s a very bad look.”

23. Johnson told "please leave my town"

Johnson met the most polite heckler ever when out on the campaign trail in 2019 in Morley. A man shook his hand before making the request to which Johnson replied "I will, very soon".


24. Ian Hislop v Priti Patel

In 2011, Ian Hislop took apart Patel’s argument in favour of the death penalty, saying the inaccuracy of sentencing in the UK would mean innocent people would be killed by the state.

He began telling a studio audience: “For 50 years Private Eye has pretty much, in most issues, exposed a miscarriage of justice and a lot of them have been murders... Over the years, large numbers of these cases have been found to be entirely wrong. And the men convicted – and a couple of women – have been found innocent.”

Hislop added: “We would have killed those people, and in some of those very high profile cases which involve terrorism cases, we would have made very dangerous new martyrs by executing people who turned out not to have committed the murders involved. So on a purely practical basis, I think it would be incredibly dangerous to have capital punishment back.”

In response, Patel argued capital punishment can act as a “deterrent” to serious crime. She said: “This is really about our criminal justice system actually, and if any conviction, for example, you need ultimate burden of proof.”

Hislop interjected: “Are you saying they were guilty? All these people?”

“No I’m not saying they were guilty, obviously,” Patel said.

“So they would be dead?” Hislop suggested.

“The point is it’s about having deterrents," Patel said.

"It’s not a deterrent killing the wrong people," Hislop replied.

25. Andrew Neil's Johnson monologue

When Johnson refused to appear on Neil's show in advance of the 2019 general election, the broadcaster was undeterred and gave a stonking list of what he would have asked the PM if he had deigned to let him.

It was pretty blistering.

26. Minister squirms when questioned about new coronavirus variant

After the Delta variant of coronavirus ripped through the UK, GMB's Adil Ray savaged Kwasi Kwarteng for the UK's failure to close the border to India - where the variant originated - sooner.

“It seems to me that you are finding excuses to try and justify why you made a catastrophic error with India rather than accept you made a mistake.

“We’re not talking about the vaccine I’m not going to let you do this, we’re talking about the Indian variant and the complete and utter catastrophic mistake this government has made.”

27. Alistair Campbell lets rip

Campbell really isn't a fan of Johnson and the Tories. Speaking about Partygate, he said:

“This isn’t just about Boris Johnson. These Conservatives have now been in power for over a decade and if it’s true... that yesterday at the cabinet meeting... that this wasn’t even raised by a single member of the cabinet, then they really are an utterly spineless craven bunch.

“This is something that is affecting the good governance of the country and that is something for the entire cabinet to address.”

28. Rory Stewart also lets rip

And this was one of Stewart's contributions to the Partygate scandal:

"[Johnson] may be able to survive for another few months but he is badly wounded, and essentially in order to be a leader, you need credibility, you need supporters, you need energy, you need enthusiasm, you need confidence.

“And those are things that Boris Johnson had in great excess over the last few years and he’s lost, and it’s very difficult to see that returning and very difficult to see him being a credible leader again.”

“The British public has spent 30 years focusing on the fact that he lies, that he’s disorganised, that he betrays almost every personal commitment that he has.

“He was manifestly unsuited to be prime minister from the beginning and it’s very disturbing that a great country like Britain should have chosen somebody so unsuitable for the role.”

29. MP calls for debate into the intelligence of Tory MPs

Chris Bryant had a sassy one in April when he listed mistakes Tories had made in parliament before suggesting their intelligence should be debated.

He said: "Can we have a debate on geography and history lessons? I gather that one Conservative Member has recently stated that we are sending refugees to a 'safe European country, Rwanda'.

"Another Conservative MP said that the Church of England was disestablished many years ago, which will come as news to the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Her Majesty.

"Many Government ministers have also said that we cannot change the prime minister during a time of war, despite the fact that we changed prime minister four times during the Afghan war, once during the first world war, the second world war and the second Boer war, and twice during the Peninsular war. Can we have a debate on the intelligence of Conservative Members?"

30. Irvine Welsh swears at Tories

When Scottish Tories posted the image with the caption: "Choose life without the SNP. Vote Scottish Conservative on May 5," Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh who made the phrase well known wasn't happy.

“Get f****d you c***s,” he wrote.

31. Andy Burnham says Tories are acting "Trumpian"

In February, and speaking about the government's levelling up plans during an appearance on BBC Question Time, the Greater Manchester mayor criticised the Conservatives, claiming they create legal directives for local councils to follow but remove funding needed to follow them.

He said: “You cut councils in their budget then you campaign against council tax rises when councils have no other choice but to do that.

″You impose this directive on clean air, then you walk about saying ’scrap the clean air [fund].

“The dishonesty of the modern Conservative party is playing from the Trump handbook.”

32. Ian Hislop rips into Tory lobbying culture

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop told a sleaze watchdog that the public are “very sick of being taken for fools” over MPs’ second jobs, following discussions over what changes needed to be made to stop Paterson scandals from happening again.

He added: “Why do you have to explain to a new MP why he shouldn’t lobby for a company taking government contracts? Why isn’t that blatantly obvious?”

33. Tory MP laughed at for energy rebate defence

A Tory MP got tongue-tied during Question Time when he tried to explain how the government’s £200 energy “discount” is not a loan.

Energy minister Greg Hands responded indulged in some spin and called it a “discount which is taken back in the form of a levy”.

The audience laughed and groaned.

34. Tory MP "ambushed with the truth"

The Tory MP Conor Burns who said Boris Johnson was"ambushed with a cake" when he broke lockdown rules on his birthday in June 2020 must have felt very silly when Johnson was fined by the police.

When that news broke, Angela Rayner joked he had been "ambushed with the truth".

35. Comedian says Tories have "no f**king clue"

Commenting on the Tories announcements to change health and social care, comedian Rosie Jones wasn't having it. She said: “I don’t know why we trust the Tories to make this legislation when we all know they have absolutely no f**king clue.

“The Tories tried to justify the removal of essential support by claiming that it helped improve independence. That’s like the proverb about giving a man a fish: it works, unless that man has no arms, no fishing rod, and lives in the desert.

“If you teach that man to fish, you killed him. Just give him a f**king fish!”

36. Cleverly gets an earful over DUP deal

In 2017, James Cleverley appeared on Question Time to discuss the government's £1bn "confidence and supply" deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, made in order to keep the Conservative government in power through the hung parliament.

He was torn apart by an audience member named Elliot, who said: "Why now, after seven years of power, are you so interested in injected £1bn of public money… That could be distributed to mental health nurses, to schools, to public sectors? But no, because you want to cling to power, because you have a woman who does not understand the electorate, does not understand the message she has been given by the public, she has now bribed the Northern Irish assembly with £1bn to keep her in power.

37. Emily Maitlis explains Johnson's flat refurbishment scandal

In April 2021, Maitlis explained Johnson's controversial flat refurbishment, why the Electoral Commission were investigating the matter.

She said: “It matters because it involves standards, rules and integrity in public office and once those values start to erode, can the public ever expect to get them back?”

38. Ed Miliband slams Rishi Sunak over the cost of living crisis

This, from May 2022 speaks for itself:

39. Alistair Campbell says people are revolted at the government

Alistair Campbell reacted to May's local election results and said they show just how much the public are turning against Boris Johnson's government.

Speaking to Sky News, Tony Blair's former communications boss said the Tories losing key London seats was "extraordinary" and showed public "revulsion" at the PM.

"I think there is this sense of people really feeling a sense of revulsion at this government under Boris Johnson," he said.

40. SNP MP says the government is 'sleepwalking to fascism'

Mhairi Black received praise after delivering a rip-roaring speech accusing the government of "sleepwalking to fascism".

During a debate about economic growth in May, SNP MP Mhairi Black levelled a number of criticisms against the government, pointing to its record on the economy, its prioritisation of "a manufactured culture war" and the "terrifying" scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

"Do they know how scary it is to sit at home and wonder if it is you—is it your rights that are up for grabs?" she said. On the government's controversial Rwanda scheme she noted: "We tell our own citizens that their safety cannot be guaranteed in Rwanda, but we are perfectly happy to ship asylum seekers, people fleeing war and persecution, over to Rwanda as though they are cattle to be dealt with by someone else and despite knowing that the plan costs more than it will ever save.

Black said these issues proved it was "sleepwalking" towards fascism.

41. Keir Starmer calls Rees-Mogg an overgrown prefect

During a fiery edition of PMQs in May 2022, Starmer teased Rees-Mogg for sticking notes on the desks of civil servants that discourage them from working at home.

The savage dig came as Starmer spoke to the commons about windfall taxes for energy companies.

"When is he finally going to get a grip, stand up for the people of Britain, and get on the right side of the argument?" he quipped.

42. Police tell Priti Patel where to go

Priti Patel was met with hostility as she was quizzed by a conference of police officers about whether she could survive on £1200 a month.

One said she had to borrow £40 from her mum to pay for fuel and food. An accountant told her she'd be better leaving the police and working in a shop.

“We have to move this forward. You have that commitment from me, you absolutely do," Patel responded to the heartbreaking stories.

43. Rayner goes in on government over lack of Covid tests...

Speaking about a shortage of Covid tests she pulled in another scandal of his government, saying: "Next time a man with Covid-19 symptoms drives from London to Durham it will probably be for the nearest Covid test."

In the speech, she also said: "The PM has put his faith in Operation Moonshot. Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, there are no NHS tests available for high infection areas."

44. And teases Gavin Williamson

When Johnson made Williamson his education minister, Rayner said: “Hey congrats @GavinWilliamson I look forward to educating you”.

45. Rosena Allin-Khan's Partygate rant

Partygate again - here's what Rosena Allin-Khan said about it on Question Time in February.

“It beggars belief that we have Crispin (Blunt, Tory MP) trying to defend the indefensible and to actually liken the horrible smearing of Keir Starmer and involve Jimmy Savile’s victims’ families in all of this mess that is quite frankly, of the prime minister’s making.

“He lied to parliament, he lied to the country, he has taken the country for fools. He was at parties.

“His staff were packing suitcases full of alcohol, working out which SPAD was going to be the DJ while people in this room were probably burying their families.”

She added: “When I worked in the NHS frontline… and I took iPads to the bedsides of dying people so their three children under six could say goodbye, there is absolutely no justification for the pain that they have felt that could possibly be explained away by a cheap apology, an insincere cheap apology, by the prime minister.”

46. Starmer says Johnson has his head in the sand

Throughout editions of PMQs over the last few months, Starmer has said Johnson has his "head in the sand" when it comes to the cost of living crisis, which is quite a thought.

47. Jack Monroe vs Rees-Mogg

Monroe again. And this Twitter spat speaks for itself:

48. Joe Lycett vs Nadine Dorries

More of an awkward moment than a takedown but comedian Joe Lycett got one over Nadine Dorries when he tricked her into tweeting fake praise for Johnson.

49. James O'Brien v Tories

In January, James O'Brien compared the government to Eastenders.

He said: “Through a combination of a ridiculous newspaper industry, the over-promotion of half-wits, a political underclass that have careered to the front benches of the Conservative party and the celebration of some of the stupidest people ever to draw breath in parliament, we’ve ended up with these two men [Johnson and Cummings] presiding over our nation, until that point that one of them fell foul of the other one’s current wife [Carrie Johnson].

“I mean, this is beyond Albert Square, isn’t it? The sheer petty, pathetic, triviality of it. So what happened to the one that was in charge? He fell out with the other one’s wife.

“Really? You mean like Phil and Grant when one of them had the affair with Sharon.”

50. Johnson fined over Partygate

Finally, recieving a fine for attending a party in lockdown has led to Tory MPs question their leader. Surely a self-own like that is the biggest takedown of them all.

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