'Hasta la vista, baby' or 'I'll be back'? Boris Johnson may still be dreaming of a return to Downing Street

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

And so, with Tory MPs clapping, screaming and cheering, he ended with "Hasta la vista, baby", a catchphrase made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Terminator films.

But at the end of Boris Johnson's final Prime Minister's Questions, while opposition MPs sat in sullen silence, he stopped short of following up with Arnie's other famous catchphrase: "I'll be back."

Is he plotting a comeback? "Mission largely accomplished - for now!" he declared, meaning the Boris Johnson soap opera is ending like all the best TV dramas, with the audience gripped in suspense and wondering what comes next.

And looking at the screeching reception he received from the Conservative benches behind him, you would have thought he was leaving in triumph, not mired in controversy and sleaze, and was awaiting the call to return.

At least one Tory MP, Johnson devotee Andrea Jenkyns, was in tears. On the government front bench, Nadine Dorries looked throughout PMQs as if she was about to blub.

Not everyone joined in the adulation, however.

Throughout PMQs and when it was over, Theresa May, in her usual seat a couple of rows back from the front bench, glowered and had a face like thunder.

She stood but refused to clap. Inside, she must have been gloating, though, after what Mr Johnson did to her three years ago.

And many of these roaring and cheering Tory MPs, let's not forget, were the same mutineers who a fortnight ago had brought him down, aided by a Cabinet and ministerial walkout triggered by one of the leading candidates to succeed him as prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

The finale of his final PMQs - for now? - could not have been scripted better.

The final question was asked by the grandest of Tory grandees and most fawning and toadying of Mr Johnson's backbench cheerleaders, Sir Edward Leigh, praising his record as prime minister.

That prompted what was clearly a prepared peroration in which he offered his advice to his successor, whoever it is.

Odd, that at the beginning of his final clash with Sir Keir Starmer earlier, he'd claimed he hadn't been following the Tory leadership election closely when the Labour leader asked him why the leadership contenders pulled out of the Sky News debate.

Stay close to the Americans was the first piece of the PM's advice. Odd, again, since Joe Biden failed to mention him by name when he resigned two weeks ago.

The second was to stick up for the Ukrainians, not surprisingly, and the third was to stick up for democracy.

Then he launched a barb at the Treasury - and, implicitly, Mr Sunak - by claiming that if we'd listened to the Treasury we'd never have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.

There was no sign of Mr Sunak in the chamber, however.

When he was chancellor, Gordon Brown used to tell his aides that turning up to PMQs was a waste of time, until they warned him that if he was going to be prime minister he'd better acquaint himself with the bearpit atmosphere and how to handle the inevitable attacks.

But the two other remaining leadership candidates were present.

Liz Truss, on the front bench separated from the outgoing prime minister by loyalists Nadhim Zahawi and Priti Patel, looked miserable, especially when Sir Keir humiliated her by reading out quotations from her attacks on current government policies.

Other Johnson loyalists completed the front bench line-up: Dominic Raab, Nadine Dorries, Alister Jack and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

How many of those cronies will still be sitting on the government frontbench at the next PMQs on 7 September when the new PM has assembled a new Cabinet?

Over on the backbenches, Penny Mordaunt, looked equally glum, flanked by her campaign chief, minder and guru Andrea Leadsom, who was tipped to become chancellor of the exchequer if Penny had won.

And no wonder. Her quotations from the TV debates got the full treatment from the Labour leader as well.

Also missing from the gallery, surprisingly, were the Johnson family. No Carrie, young Wilfred or father Stanley. Too painful, perhaps?

We're getting used to these prime ministerial farewells, of course. And more often than not, like this one, they're a show of defiance by the outgoing PM.

In a noisy House of Commons on the day Margaret Thatcher faced a vote of no confidence hours after resigning as prime minister, she famously declared: "I'm enjoying this!"

Read more:
Sunak or Truss will become next PM

Boris Johnson has been 'found out', says Labour leader

In 2007, when Tony Blair bowed out, it was David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, who graciously led the applause.

No repeat from Sir Keir for Mr Johnson this time, although the Labour leader did suspend hostilities very briefly to wish his rival and his family well at the start of this PMQs.

In 2005, at his first PMQs, Mr Cameron had told Mr Blair: "He was the future once."

Then when he quit in 2016, Mr Cameron signed off with the self-deprecating: "I was the future once."

Just like Mrs Thatcher, in his final appearance at Prime Minister's Questions after he announced his resignation, Boris Johnson appeared to be enjoying himself as well, rattling off his achievements and legacy in the way we've become used to at last week's PMQs and in Monday's confidence debate.

He even unleashed a new insult against Sir Keir, branding him a "pointless human bollard", though he also gave "Captain Hindsight" one last outing.

Sir Keir's supporters would no doubt argue that bollards are pretty immovable.

And Sir Keir will probably have been Labour leader for four years by the time he faces Mr Johnson's successor at the next election.

Mr Johnson, on the other hand, will no doubt be reflecting that he'd hoped to be immovable and be wishing he was staying in Downing Street.

But by quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger in the way he did, was he leaving the front door of Number 10 just a little ajar?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting