Johnson promises to get on with his job after bruising Tory revolt

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions (PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions (PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson promised new measures to boost home ownership and defended his record in office as he faced MPs for the first time since being wounded by a revolt by Tories against his leadership.

The Prime Minister insisted he is getting on with the job despite 148 of his own MPs saying they have no confidence in him.

Mr Johnson said the Government will be “expanding home ownership for millions of people” and “cutting the costs of business”.

The Prime Minister 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 “flatpack” 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% of his MPs.

Mr Johnson said his administration will 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 Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Prime Minister was greeted with cheers by supporters but, in the first question, Labour’s Dame Angela Eagle said Mr Johnson is “loathed” – including by his own party – and asked him to explain “if 148 of his own backbenchers don’t trust him, why on earth should the country?”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Johnson replied that he had “picked up political opponents all over” 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.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer focused on the NHS during his exchanges with Mr Johnson, seizing on the blue-on-blue spat between Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and senior Tory Jeremy Hunt during Monday’s confidence vote.

Ms Dorries, a Johnson loyalist, claimed that Mr Hunt, a critic of the Prime Minister, had left the country “wanting and unprepared” for the Covid-19 pandemic during his long tenure as health secretary.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford likened Mr Johnson’s reaction to surviving the confidence vote to the black knight in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, who claimed his mortal injuries were just flesh wounds.

But Mr Johnson appeared to shout “not even a flesh wound” in response to the jibe.

Sir Keir also quoted from former minister Jesse Norman’s no confidence letter to Mr Johnson in which he said the Government “seems to lack a sense of mission”.

In a raucous Commons chamber, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle forced to intervene to calm proceedings, Sir Keir told Mr Johnson: “Pretending no rules were broken didn’t work.

“Pretending the economy is booming didn’t work.

“And pretending to build 40 new hospitals won’t work either.”

Referring to Tory MPs, Sir Keir said: “They want him to change, but he can’t.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer focused on the NHS during his exchanges with the Prime Minister (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer focused on the NHS during his exchanges with the Prime Minister (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)

The Prime Minister defended his record, telling MPs: “We are making colossal investments in our NHS, we are cutting waiting times, we are raising standards, we are paying nurses more, we are supporting our fantastic NHS.”

He highlighted the “strength of the UK economy” and the “fiscal firepower” which enabled the money to be spent.

“We have the lowest unemployment now since 1974 and we are going to continue to grow our economy for the long term.”

His comments came on the day the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) slashed its UK growth forecast for this year from 4.75% to 3.64%, with inflation expected to peak at more than 10%.

The OECD said gross domestic product (GDP) growth will stagnate next year.

But Mr Johnson defended his mission to “unite and level up” and “unleash the potential of our entire country”.

The range of issues which have caused discontent in the Tory ranks means there is no single response the Prime Minister can make to win over doubters.

Some 148 Tory backbenchers voted that they had no confidence in their leader (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)
Some 148 Tory backbenchers voted that they had no confidence in their leader (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)

While it was the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties in Downing Street which prompted the confidence vote, it also revealed deep unhappiness among MPs on different wings of the party across a range of issues.

They include promised legislation to override the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU, as well as concerns over the high levels of tax and spending amid reports that rebel MPs could start staging “vote strikes” on policies they oppose.

In an attempt to win over his critics, Mr Johnson has pledged further tax cuts and is under pressure from MPs and ministers to show how he can ease the burden on households and businesses.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid added his voice to calls for tax cuts, saying he would “like to see us do more”.

He acknowledged the pandemic had resulted in “challenges to the public finances” but told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I would like to see cuts where they’re possible.

“And I know that this is something the Government is taking very seriously and I know that it’s something that the Chancellor will look at.”

Mr Johnson’s press secretary told reporters: “We have been clear we want to cut taxes but we are in a very difficult position following the global pandemic so as soon as it is responsible we will set out plans for doing that.”

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