Keir Starmer labels PM 'vengeful squatter' ahead of confidence vote in government

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer clashed for one of the final times in the House of Commons. Credit: PA

Keir Starmer hit out at Boris Johnson as a “vengeful squatter” for not stepping down immediately as prime minister following dozens of resignations in protest of his premiership.

Speaking ahead of a vote of no confidence in the government – tabled by the government after calls for Mr Johnson to stand aside – the Labour leader said the prime minister is leaving “in disgrace.”

“This is not the summer for Downing Street to be occupied by a vengeful squatter mired in scandal,” Sir Keir said in what was a bad-tempered debate, during which Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle made numerous calls to “moderate” language.

“Unlike his predecessors, this prime minister has not been forced out over policy disagreements.

“And despite the delusions he has fostered in his bunker, he has not been felled by the stampede of an eccentric herd. Instead, he has been forced out in disgrace.”

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Mr Johnson had minutes earlier given a bullish defence of his record in government, despite a series of scandals that culminated in his own resignation this month.

He hailed his 2019 general election success and celebrated his Brexit record, telling MPs: “We got Brexit done and though the rejoiners and the revengers were left plotting and planning and biding their time... we delivered on every single one of our promises.”

He then turned to the Covid pandemic, claiming: “A pandemic that was global, whose origins we do not fully understand but were nothing to do with the British people.

“And if anything the result of distant misbehaviour involving bats or pangolins, and whose spread was appallingly difficult to manage, and this government never gave up through wave after wave.”

He went to on to praise the “resilience of the British people” in protecting the NHS, when one Labour MP was heard shouting: “You partied in Downing Street.”

Boris Johnson will step down as prime minister, but many want him to step aside immediately. Credit: PA

MPs will take part in a vote of confidence in the government later on Monday as calls for Boris Johnson to step down immediately and hand over to a caretaker prime minister continue.

If the government is defeated it would almost certainly trigger a general election, although that would require a significant number of Tory MPs to vote against it, or at least abstain.

That however would appear unlikely given the party is leaderless and in no fit state to fight an election, while the initial wave of anger at Mr Johnson has largely subsided.

Unusually, the vote will take place on a government motion - a fact Mr Johnson appeared or forget.

Opening the debate, he said: “I have no idea why the Leader of the Opposition has insisted that we must have a confidence motion today when we could be sparing people from online harms, we could be fixing the defects in the Northern Ireland Protocol, ending the pointless barriers to the trade in our country, but since he wants one…”

But Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle intervened to say: “It might be just helpful, it’s actually the government that’s put it down today.”

Labour had originally said it would seek to hold a no confidence vote after Mr Johnson announced he was staying on as prime minister until the autumn and a new Conservative leader was in place.

However, the government refused to accept the wording of the Labour motion, which expressed no confidence in the government and the prime minister, effectively forcing Tory MPs to go on record saying they still had confidence in Mr Johnson if they wanted to avoid an election.

So instead ministers tabled a motion of their own after the Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans told the two parties to resolve the matter themselves.