Fury as Johnson urges MPs to honour Jo Cox by delivering Brexit
Boris Johnson is facing a furious backlash after he told MPs that the best way to honour the memory of murdered MP Jo Cox was to deliver on Brexit.
There was uproar in the Commons on Wednesday as the Prime Minister repeatedly berated MPs for “sabotaging” Brexit, accusing them of passing a “surrender act”.
In highly charged scenes, he challenged the opposition parties to table a vote of no confidence or back a general election and face a “day of reckoning” with the voters.
But there was fury after he brushed aside an appeal by Labour MP Paula Sherriff to curb his “violent” and “inflammatory” language.
She said that like Ms Cox – who was killed by a man with far-right sympathies just days before the 2016 referendum – many MPs faced death threats from people using the same sort of language as the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson retorted that he had “never heard such humbug in all my life”.
There was further outrage when he told another Labour MP that the best way to honour Ms Cox – an ardent Remainer – was to “get Brexit done”.
Former cabinet minister Amber Rudd – who quit the Government and the Tory Party over Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit – said his comments were “dishonest and dangerous”.
“This whole approach of pitting Parliament against the people is dishonest and dangerous,” she told ITV’s Peston programme.
“Dishonest because there were legitimate differences of opinion amongst different MPs, different factions, and we need to find the common ground, and dangerous because it starts to ramp up people’s behaviour against the MPs and against different people.”
For Labour, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner accused the Prime Minister of trying to divert attention from his political difficulties.
“It was calculated and it was orchestrated,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight .
“What is going on with this Trumpian populism, with the way in which this incendiary language is being cranked up is to deflect attention from all the things that are really important in our democracy.”
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said Mr Johnson had shown himself to be “totally unfit for office”.
“He heard the pleas of MPs, many of whom who have faced death threats, to moderate his language and dismissed their concerns with the same callous bluster that has become his trademark,” she said.
“To suggest the best way to honour Jo Cox, an MP who was murdered for what she believed in, was to pass his Brexit deal was sickening.”
Ms Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, said he felt “a bit sick” at the way her name was being used.
“The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination. But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common,” he tweeted.
Despite Mr Johnson’s attacks, opposition parties again made clear they would not agree to an election until they were sure the threat of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 was off the table.
Downing Street said that if they did not take up the Prime Minister’s offer to table a no-confidence motion, the Government would take it as a mandate to press on with Brexit.
“They have an opportunity, should they take it, to have a confidence vote,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“If not then it will be taken as confidence in the Government and the Government will hopefully be allowed to get on with implementing its strategy and delivering Brexit on October 31.”
A No 10 source added: “The public has seen enough of Parliament delaying and dithering and preventing things happening. It is put up or shut up time.”
Mr Johnson was forced back to Westminster, cutting short his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, after the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that his five week suspension of Parliament was illegal.
The Government will however ask MPs on Thursday to agree a three-day break for the Commons next week while the Tories stage their annual party conference in Manchester.
But in the angry mood at Westminster, the opposition parties appear unlikely to agree, meaning Mr Johnson could be forced to rearrange his keynote speech due to be held on the final day on Wednesday.