PMQs: Boris Johnson delivers final speech as Prime Minster
And in his swansong at the dispatch box on Wednesday, the Prime Minister took a departing swipe at leadership frontrunner and former chancellor Rishi Sunak for putting the brakes on his big-spending plans. After declaring his “mission largely accomplished – for now” he set out advice for the successor set to be chosen in the Tory leadership contest. And the outgoing premier suggested he could be back by signing off from his last Prime Minister’s Questions with the quip: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
The line from the 1990s sci-fi blockbuster Terminator 2 is Spanish for, “See you later”.
And it led observers to wonder whether the PM might yet steal another famous phrase from the Arnold Schwarzenegger film series: “I’ll be back.”
Although a return seems difficult to imagine, it would mirror the career of Mr Johnson’s political hero Winston Churchill, who famously retuned to Downing Street in 1951 after being kicked out as PM by the electorate in 1945.
On Wednesday, the departing PM told MPs: “I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.
“Number one, stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere.
“Cut taxes and de-regulation wherever you can and make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is.”
In what appeared to be swipe at former chancellor Mr Sunak’s resistance to big-spending plans, the Prime Minister said: “I love the Treasury but remember that if we’d always listened to the Treasury we wouldn’t have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.”
Concluding his advice, he also seemed to make a reference to the dangers of people manouvring out of sight, adding: “Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror. And remember above all it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people who sent us here.”
Mr Johnson set out advice for the successor set to be chosen in the Tory leadership contest.
Mr Johnson’s comeback tease came shortly before the Tory leadership race narrowed to the final two.
Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will battle to become his successor in a ballot of Tory members next week after challenger Penny Mordaunt was knocked out in the final round.
Aides denied his reference to his mission being completed “for now” and the Terminator character known for the catchphrase “I’ll be back” were hints that the Prime Minister is plotting a comeback.
“That was his way of saying farewell to his colleagues,” his press secretary said.
But his remark comes after more than 2,000 Tory Party members backed a petition for Mr Johnson’s name to be included on the ballot paper in the final leadership vote.
Mr Johnson was in ebullient and unapologetic form for the final PMQs before the Commons breaks up for the summer break and handover of power in Downing Street.
Most Tory MPs gave him a standing ovation, although his predecessor Theresa May joined opposition MPs in refusing to clap.
In a series of barbed clashes, he denounced Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as “a great pointless human bollard” and brushed aside hostile questions from Labour, SNP and other opposition MPs.
He added: “The last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life, and it’s true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years and a huge realignment in UK politics.
“We’ve transformed our democracy and restored our national independence.
“I’ve helped to get this country through a pandemic and helped save another country from barbarism, and frankly that’s enough to be going on with.
“Mission largely accomplished, for now.”
After thanking his staff and MPs, the Prime Minister quoted the killer robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Terminator 2, saying: “Hasta la vista, baby. Thank you.”
Film buffs noted that the Terminator’s catchphrase is: “I’ll be back.”
Earlier in the session, the Labour leader paid a brief tribute to the Prime Minister before asking a series of questions about the Tory leadership contest.
“I do know that the relationship between a prime minister and the leader of the opposition is never easy, and this one have proved no exception to the rule.
“But I would like to take this opportunity to wish him, his wife and his family the best for the future.”
Sir Keir went on to joke that the Tory leadership candidates showed “outrageous characters kicking lumps out of themselves” and claimed the Prime Minister lived in a “gold wallpapered bunker.”
Mr Johnson hit back by condemning Labour as “economically illiterate” and suggested no one could name any of the party’s policies.
He joked that the Labour leader frequently made a “flapping gesture” because of “union barons pulling his strings.”
And he mocked Sir Keir as a “human bollard” who merely attempted to obstruct any reform.
In a podcast on Wednesday, the Labour leader was even more damning about Mr Johnson’s record, accusing him of being a “complete bullshitter” who “took the piss” out of the public in a foul-mouthed tirade.
The Labour leader said the outgoing Prime Minister had been “found out” as the country has a sense that “this guy doesn’t mean a word that he says”.
Mr Johnson’s press secretary accused the Labour leader of being “hypocritical.”
Veteran Tory backbencher Sir Edward Leigh used the final question at PMQs to pay tribute to Mr Johnson.
“On behalf of the House may I thank the Prime Minister for his three years’ record of service.
“On behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the country can I thank him for his insistence on rolling out the Astra Zeneca jab which has saved thousands of lives.
“On behalf of 17.4 million people who voted Brexit may I thank him,” Sir Edward said.
He added: “For true grit and determination keep going – and thank you.”
After Mr Johnson’s closing remarks, Tory MPs burst into applause while the opposition declined to join in.
Nadine Dorries, one of the Prime Minister’s most loyal supporter, savaged Labour for their behaviour after the session
“Today the behaviour of Labour MPs shows how far Labour has fallen,” she said, branding Sir Keir’s party “graceless”.
She added: “They are truly unfit to ever be let near No10.”
I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.
Number one: Stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is.
I love the Treasury but remember that if we’d always listened to the Treasury we wouldn’t have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.
Focus on the road ahead but always remember to check the rear view mirror.
And remember, above all, it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people that sent us here.
The last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life, and it is true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years, and a huge realignment in UK politics. We have transformed our politics and restored our national independence.
We’ve helped – I’ve helped – get this country through a pandemic, and helped save another country from barbarism.
And, frankly, that’s enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished – for now.
I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, I want to thank all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons.
I want to thank all my friends and colleagues, I want to thank my friend opposite, I want to thank everybody here, and Hasta la vista, baby, thank you.
Round of applause for Mr Johnson
Warning as inflation hits 40-year high
Inflation is at a 40-year high – and experts warn even more misery is on the way, writes Martyn Brown, Daily Express Senior Political Correspondent.
Last month it jumped to 9.4 per cent, and rates are now at the highest level since 1982, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Milk, eggs and cheese saw some of the biggest price hikes, as well as vegetables, meat and ready meals.
And analysts have warned prices will only keep on rising, with the Bank of England predicting inflation may hit 11 per cent later this year.
The Bank is tipped to raise interest rates again next month, to help get a grip on inflation.
Soaring food and petrol prices have been the main drivers behind the worrying figures, the ONS said.
Meanwhile, fuel prices rocketed by 42.3 per cent in a year – the biggest jump since 1989. And energy costs are expected to hit £3,000 by the end of the year.
Confederation of British Industry chief economist, Anna Leach, said rising inflation was “severely eating into strained household incomes”.
Cost of UK homes rise by £32,000
The average UK house price has leapt by £32,000 in a year, adding to fears of affordability as households grapple with the cost-of-living crisis, writes Vicky Shaw.
Property values increased by 12.8 per cent annually in May, accelerating from a 11.9 per cent increase in April.
This pushed the typical house price to £283,000 in May, which was £32,000 higher than a year earlier, said the Office for National Statistics.
Property values in England, Wales and Scotland all hit new record levels in May.
The South-west of England was the region with the highest annual house price growth, with average prices increasing by 16.9 per cent. London had the lowest at 8.2 per cent.
Karen Noye, a mortgage expert at Quilter, said that with an expected rise in interest rates: “People’s spending power will be reduced and the cheap mortgage rates will quickly disappear.
“A dip in demand could see a slowdown in the housing market over the coming months.”
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ON the day that Margaret Thatcher was kicked out of Downing Street, she gave a final bravura performance in the House of Commons.
As she dominated the chamber for the last time, she declared: “I’m enjoying this.”
Her star turn prompted many Tory MPs to ask themselves what they had done in bringing her down.
Now that the final shortlist of leadership candidates has been decided, much of the current Conservative Parliamentary party is asking the same question about the downfall of Boris Johnson, for neither of his potential successors have anything like his charisma or vision.
His appearance for his final round of Prime Minister’s Questions did not have the same sense of theatre as Mrs Thatcher’s swansong in 1990.
Partly because the occasion was less suddenly dramatic and partly because Johnson, for all the brilliance of his language and the brilliance of his humour, has never been a great Parliamentarian in contrast to his hero Winston Churchill.
Nevertheless, his last session was a reminder of what British politics will miss in the future once he has gone.
There is no figure as compelling on the political stage as him, no MP who creates the same frisson of excitement and anticipation.
Even as opposition MPs queued up to denounce him, he still emerged as the winner.
In a final piece of withering, but almost affectionate jousting against Sir Keir Starmer, Johnson memorably described the Labour leader as “a pointless plastic bollard” along the side of a deserted motorway roadworks.
He also seemed to take a swipe at Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor who thwarted his grandiose spending plans.
Johnson told the House that Treasury orthodoxy should not be rigidly followed and that the British economy needed a sharp dose of tax cuts.
At times he could be moving, as when he spoke of being Prime Minister as “the greatest privilege of my life”.
Or when he urged MPs to get their democratic priorities right.
As he said: “It is not Twitter that counts. It is the people who sent us here.”
In a touching closing moment, the loyal Tory backbencher Sir Edward Leigh thanked him for “getting Brexit done,” for standing in solidarity with Ukraine and for implementing the levelling up agenda.
Looking slightly bashful, the Prime Minister replied, “Mission accomplished – for now”.
But there was a heavy hint in those words that he might return to politics, a point reinforced by his parting remarks to the House.
Echoing the famous line from the movie Terminator 2, he said, “Hasta la vista baby”, Spanish for “See you later”.
Then the Prime Minister left the chamber to a standing ovation from the Tories, in which even Theresa May reluctantly joined in.
What is certain is that British public life has not seen the last of him.