Boris Johnson bats away 'trust issues' as he runs gauntlet of MPs

UK leader makes first appearance in House of Commons since surviving vote of confidence

Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday began with an opposition MP saying Monday’s confidence vote had 'demonstrated just how loathed' Boris Johnson is among members of the ruling Conservative Party. AFP
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Boris Johnson put on a bold front as he faced MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday for the first time since taking a bruising in a vote of confidence.

The Prime Minister’s Questions session began with Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle saying Monday’s ballot had “demonstrated just how loathed” Mr Johnson is among members of the ruling Conservative Party.

Mr Johnson won the vote, with 211 Tory politicians backing him, but 148 of his own MPs said they had no confidence in his leadership, dealing a blow to his authority.

“As his administration is too distracted by internal divisions to deal with the challenges we face, can the prime minister explain if 148 of his own backbenchers don’t trust him, why on earth should the country?” Ms Eagle asked.

The prime minister rebuffed her dressing down, saying that over the course of his political career he had “picked up political opponents all over”.

He also suggested that Tory MPs who refused to back him in the vote did so because they did not approve of the achievements of his government.

Boris Johnson faced off with opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs. AFP

In response to Ms Eagle's question, Mr Johnson told the House: “I can assure her in a long political career so far — barely begun — I’ve of course picked up political opponents all over and that is because this government has done some very big and very remarkable things which they didn’t necessarily approve of.

“And what I want her to know is that absolutely nothing and no one, least of all her, is going to stop us with getting on delivering for the British people.”

In a bid to move the public conversation on from the gulf within his own party, Mr Johnson promised new measures to boost home ownership, saying the government would be “expanding home ownership for millions of people” and “cutting the costs of business”.

He is expected to use a major speech this week to set out housing plans, with speculation that the Right to Buy could be extended for housing association residents and a wave of modular or “flat-pack” homes could also be built. The move will form part of a plan by Mr Johnson to reassert his authority after surviving Monday’s confidence vote despite the revolt by 41 per cent of his MPs.

Mr Johnson said his government would create “high-wage, high-skilled jobs” for the country. "And as for jobs, I’m going to get on with mine,” he told the Commons in a rowdy session of PMQs.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer lambasted him over his handling of GP services, which he said were inadequate. Sir Keir spoke of long lists of patients awaiting NHS appointments as well as people facing delays in trying to see their doctor.

He said the prime minister’s “big plan to act is so tired that even once-loyal MPs don’t believe him”.

“Of course he talks big, but I’ve got a letter here to the prime minister from the honourable member from Hereford and South Herefordshire [Jesse Norman],” said Sir Keir. “He said – this is you, prime minister – under you, the government seems to lack a sense of mission, it has a large majority but no long-term plan.”

Mr Johnson responded by saying his government was working to cut times for cancer diagnosis as the number of people coming forward was increasing now that the Covid-19 pandemic no longer took precedence.

The opposition leader shot back and said “blaming the pandemic just won’t wash”.

Updated: June 08, 2022, 12:05 PM