Keir Starmer mocks cascade of government resignations as ’the first case of the sinking ship fleeing the rat‘
Boris Johnson has not denied he used the phrase “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” about the ex-minister now threatening to end his premiership within days.
The prime minister also refused to apologise for a Tory whip who allegedly told one of Chris Pincher’s alleged victims that it would not be “straightforward” to pursue a complaint if he was gay.
It came as Keir Starmer ripped into a government apparently disintegrating after multiple resignations – ridiculing it as “the first case of the sinking ship fleeing the rat”.
As the storm clouds gather – and the Tory party expected to change the rules to allow a fresh no-confidence vote as early as tonight – Mr Johnson was asked if there are ‘any circumstances” in which he would resign.
But he insisted the “job” of a prime minister with a large Commons majority “is to keep going and that is what I am going to do”.
Earlier, there was laughter as Mr Johnson told MPs “today is a big day”, as many contemplated whether it will be the one when he is forced to quit.
He also claimed he had “acted immediately” to strip the Tory whip from Mr Pincher when the alleged scandal broke last week – although there was a gap of nearly one day.
The Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, criticised Mr Johnson for saying Mr Pincher is being “investigated” by the Commons complaints service, when the process is confidential.
Sir Keir told the prime minister he is “a pathetic spectacle”, adding: “As for those who are left, only in office because no-one else is prepared to debase themselves any longer –the charge of the lightweight brigade. Have some self-respect.
“For a week he’s had them defending his decision to promote a sexual predator … anyone with anything about them would be long gone from his frontbench.
“In the middle of a crisis, doesn’t the country deserve better than a Z list cast of nodding dogs?”
But Mr Johnson replied: “It’s exactly when times are tough and when the country faces pressures on the economy and pressures on their budgets, and when we have the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, that is exactly the moment that you’d expect a government to continue with its work, not to walk away, and to get on with our job and to focus on the things that matter to the people of this country.”
He also claimed there is “a ready supply of skilled labour” to replace the growing tally of MPs who are quitting his government.