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A swear word and clapping in the Commons: Boris Johnson's first PMQs were an explosive affair

The usually smooth talker stumbled through his answers and let some things slip through this afternoon.

Image: PA Images

HALFWAY THROUGH BORIS Johnson’s first bout of Prime Minister’s Questions (and possibly his last), House Speaker John Bercow reminded MPs that there was a delegation of Lebanese parliamentarians watching proceedings today, adding that he wasn’t sure what impression they were getting of UK parliamentary procedure.

You’d imagine that they got exactly what they had hoped for.

In a jaw-dropping bout of verbal jabs, political posturing and repeated slips from House of Commons’ etiquette, Johnson’s usual eloquent zingers were scant. 

With each question posed by a Labour MP, the Prime Minister would end his reply with a request that the MP in question would ask Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to hold a general election:

Will he allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on October 15 – or is he frit [ie, frightened]?

In a number of eccentric insults thrown at Corbyn – who had an unusually good outing in the House of Commons – Johnson called the Labour leader a “chlorinated chicken”, and a “great big girl’s blouse” for not backing his wish for a general election on 15 October.

He also took aim at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying that the sooner he is out of the role “the better”; Khan responded by saying that this was done to avoid a question about whether the 20,000 promised police officers would go to the front line. 

Corbyn, meanwhile, said he hoped no more female aides would be “frogmarched” out of No 10 (“and at gunpoint!” another MP added), in reference to Dominic Cummings firing an aide of Sajid Javid without his knowledge. 

One of the most silent moments of the entire bout of this roaring edition of Prime Minister’s Questions was when David Gauke, who lost the Tory whip after voting against the government last night, calmly asked: “The Prime Minister has said that the prorogation of parliament has nothing to do with Brexit. Is that still his position?”

Johnson rattled off a condensed version of answers he has given before, saying “this parliament has lasted longer than any in almost 400 years”, and said there would be “ample time” to debate Brexit.

Parliamentary procedure out the window

One of the most electrifying moments of the entire affair was when MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi arose to ask that Boris Johnson apologise for his “derogatory and racist” remarks about Muslim women, where he compared them to bank robbers and post boxes in one of his columns for The Telegraph

It resulted in two powerful rounds of applause from opposition MPs, which was allowed by John Bercow despite clapping in the House of Commons being banned.

Johnson’s response was to say that in his column, he argued against banning burqas. He continued that he has Muslim ancestors and is related to a Sikh “like himself”.

Johnson was asked before to apologise for those remarks he made, to which he replied that he would continue to speak as he always has: “If I use phrases and language that cause offence, I’m sorry for causing offence but I will continue to speak as directly I can.”

And he was true to his word, in this instance at least. In another example of a slip from the UK parliament’s strict decorum, Johnson uttered the phrase “shit or bust”, while apparently quoting the opposition.

“The Shadow Education Secretary says that their economic policy is, and I quote Mr Speaker, by your leave, shit or bust. I say, I say it’s both.”

The quips and insults weren’t confined to Prime Minister’s Questions either: in response to Sadiq Khan’s statement, John McDonnell was interrupted by Johnson. So he responded:

The last time the Member for Uxbridge (Johnson) shouted at someone, they had to call the police. Let’s not go there.

That is, of course, a reference to the alleged domestic incident at the apartment of Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds where the police were called by neighbours who said they heard a heated argument. 

If you want to read the House of Commons’ goings-on in more detail, our Liveblog has been ticking over since early morning – keep up with it all here

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