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19 January 2022

“In the name of God, go”: What we learned from today’s PMQs

The most wounding blow to Boris Johnson came from David Davis, who told him to his face to resign.

By Ailbhe Rea

Boris Johnson told Tory defector Christian Wakeford that he owes him his seat

The drama began ten minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions today as Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South, announced his defection to the Labour Party and crossed the floor to take his seat behind Keir Starmer. The Labour leader welcomed the party’s latest MP and used it to tell voters that “Labour has changed, and the Conservative Party has too” or, in other words, that Labour should be the new destination for voters in the Red Wall disappointed by Boris Johnson. The embattled Prime Minister, with a distinct note of anger in his voice, said that “the Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in generations under this Prime Minister… and we will win again in Bury South at the next election under this Prime Minister”. Johnson’s message to Wakeford was that he owes Johnson his seat and that he will lose it at the next election. Wakeford disagrees: his calculation is that his best chance of retaining Bury South MP is not as a Conservative candidate but as a Labour one.

Conservative MPs were rallied by Christian Wakeford’s defection…

Despite consensus behind the scenes that Boris Johnson can’t lead their party into the next general election, Conservative MPs were notably more vocal in their support of the Prime Minister compared with last week’s eerily quiet proceedings. They were rallied temporarily, it seems, by the defection of one of their own to Labour. Questions from the Tory side mostly lacked a sting, while some were more vocal in their defence of Johnson. “They’ve been told there’s going to be an inquiry,” said Tory backbencher Paul Holmes, complaining about the number of Labour questions about partygate. “My constituents want us to get on with other things,” he added, to a cheer. There was also a different face by the Prime Minister’s side today compared with last week: Rishi Sunak.

…But David Davis told Boris Johnson to his face to resign

“In the name of God, go” were the damning final words from the prominent Conservative MP and former cabinet minister David Davis, as he spoke of the need for leaders who “shoulder the responsibility” and lamented how long he had spent defending the Prime Minister. “I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Johnson replied.

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