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Boris Johnson declared “mission largely accomplished, for now” before signing-off his final Prime Minister’s Questions by telling MPs: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
The Spanish term “hasta la vista” translates to “see you later”, but “hasta la vista, baby” is the catchphrase of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character in the 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Mr Johnson’s valedictory comments left the door open for a possible comeback, with the Terminator also known for the catchphrase: “I’ll be back.”
Asked if a comeback is on the cards, his press secretary said: “That was his way of saying farewell to his colleagues.”
Asked if Mr Johnson has any plans, if offered, to go to the House of Lords, she said: “I think that’s purely hypothetical.”
The Prime Minister, in his final answer from the despatch box, told MPs: “I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.
“Number one, stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere.
“Cut taxes and de-regulation wherever you can and make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is.
“I love the Treasury but remember that if we’d always listened to the Treasury we wouldn’t have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.
“Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror.
“And remember above all it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people who sent us here.”
Mr Johnson added: “The last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life, and it’s true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years and a huge realignment in UK politics.
“We’ve transformed our democracy and restored our national independence.
“I’ve helped to get this country through a pandemic and helped save another country from barbarism, and frankly that’s enough to be going on with.
“Mission largely accomplished, for now.”
He thanked his staff and MPs before giving a nod to Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character by adding: “Hasta la vista, baby. Thank you.”
Mr Johnson received pats on the back from loyalist MPs as he exited the chamber.
Conservative minister Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) appeared to be in tears while Mrs May, on the third row behind Mr Johnson, stood but looked unmoved.
The show of support for Mr Johnson in his final hurrah was in stark contrast to the events of recent weeks, as dozens of Conservative MPs quit their posts in a bid to force him out after a series of scandals.
Mr Johnson’s valedictory speech came after veteran Conservative backbencher Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) praised his record.
Labour MPs could be heard shouting “no” as Sir Edward said: “On behalf of the House may I thank the Prime Minister for his three years’ record of service.”
He added: “On behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the country can I thank him for his insistence on rolling out the Astra Zeneca jab which has saved thousands of lives.
“On behalf of 17.4 million people who voted Brexit may I thank him… on behalf of northern towns may I thank him for his commitment to levelling up and most of all, on behalf of the people of Ukraine may I thank him for holding high the torch of freedom and ensuring that that country is not a vassal state.
“For true grit and determination keep going and thank you.”
This Prime Minister has been very embodiment of the excess and vice that the Ministerial Code was designed to protect
Claire Hanna, SDLP MP
Earlier, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle urged MPs to conduct PMQs in a manner “focusing on issues and policies rather than personalities”.
But Mr Johnson paid little attention and branded Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer a “great pointless human bollard”.
He faced repeated calls for Scottish independence from SNP MPs while SDLP MP Claire Hanna (Belfast South) raised his Brexit legacy.
She said: “This Prime Minister has been very embodiment of the excess and vice that the Ministerial Code was designed to protect, and once trust is broken it is very hard to rebuild.”
She claimed the Government had “systematically destroyed” trust across Ireland over the last six years, asking: “Can I ask the Prime Minister if he is capable of any self-reflection? Does he have any regrets of his legacy of damaging our fragile shared society and all the people of Northern Ireland?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I completely disagree with that. The whole objective of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that we have passed is to support the Belfast Good Friday arrangements that have brought the balance of those in symmetry… I was very pleased it passed its advance into the House of Lords with no amendments.”
The Bill is expected to clear the Commons on Wednesday evening.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey asked whether there should be a general election once a new Tory leader is chosen, but the Prime Minister warned of a “crackpot coalition” in his reply.