Boris Johnson refuses to tone down divisive rhetoric as top aide says MPs are bringing the insults on themselves
- Boris Johnson has vowed that he will not be bullied into moderating his language
- Mr Johnson has faced intense criticism for his use of the phase ‘Surrender Act’
- But he said he will continue using term as people are let down by Brexit chaos
A defiant Boris Johnson last night vowed that he would not be ‘bullied’ into moderating his language as his most senior adviser accused MPs facing abuse of bringing it on themselves.
The Prime Minister faced a backlash after he repeatedly used the phrase ‘Surrender Act’ in a Commons debate to describe legislation passed by rebel MPs to block a No Deal Brexit.
But yesterday he pledged to keep using the term as he warned that ‘people will feel very badly let down’ if the country does not leave the EU on October 31.
The PM’s top aide Dominic Cummings last night said MPs should not be surprised about the level of anger directed towards them following the repeated delays to Brexit.
Boris Johnson has refused to be bullied into moderating his language in the House of Commons
‘A lot of people in Parliament are more out of touch with the country now than they were in summer 2016,’ he told an event in London. ‘If you’re a bunch of politicians and you say we are going to respect the result of a democratic vote, and then after you lose you say, ‘We don’t want to respect that vote’, what do you expect to happen?’
Mr Cummings said there was a ‘very important distinction’ between ‘robust political discussion and threats of violence’, which he condemned.
‘Threats of violence are a completely different matter…everyone should take those extremely seriously,’ he added.
Asked whether he believes MPs have themselves to blame for the abuse they are receiving, Mr Cummings replied: ‘That’s the way you’re putting it. I am using my language.’
Mr Johnson faced fury on Wednesday night after he dismissed as ‘humbug’ a complaint by a Labour MP that his ‘inflammatory’ rhetoric risked provoking attacks on MPs.
He further angered the opposition by suggesting that the best way to honour murdered Labour MP Jo Cox – an ardent Remainer – was to ‘get Brexit done’. Former Tory premier Sir John Major yesterday accused the PM of ‘wilfully’ destroying the prospects of any cross-party agreement on Brexit with his Commons onslaught.
He said Mr Johnson was whipping up ‘fear and anger’ for electoral purposes – a tactic he described as ‘profoundly un-Conservative’. Mr Johnson defended himself in a round of interviews with BBC regional news programmes, saying: ‘I do think in the House of Commons it is important I should be able to talk about the ‘Surrender Bill’ in the way that I did.
The PM’s top aide Dominic Cummings last night said MPs should not be surprised about the level of anger directed towards them following the repeated delays to Brexit
‘It would take away the power of this Government and the power of this country to decide how long it would remain in the EU and give that power to the EU. That’s really quite an extraordinary thing.’
Mr Johnson said he believes that ‘tempers need to come down’, but accused opposition MPs of using more abusive terms than him in the Commons chamber.
‘I was sitting opposite people who were shouting all sorts of things at me all afternoon that were far harsher,’ he said.
‘What I worry about is if we don’t get Brexit done, then people will feel very badly let down – and that’s why we’ve gotta bash on and get it done on October 31.
‘It’s only by getting Brexit done that you’ll lance the boil…of the current anxiety.’
In a meeting of Tory MPs earlier, Mr Johnson said the party would not be ‘bullied’ into toning down its language.
Commons Speaker John Bercow yesterday pleaded with MPs on all sides to tackle the ‘toxic’ political culture
However, Labour MPs have warned the ‘horrendous’ language about Mrs Cox could scupper Mr Johnson’s chances of getting a Brexit deal through Parliament. A number of pro-Leave Labour MPs are known to have been considering voting for any agreement he strikes as they are so worried by the prospect of No Deal. But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Mr Johnson’s performance in the Commons chamber on Wednesday had put off colleagues from offering cross-party support.
‘I have spoken to people who might want to consider a Boris Johnson deal but that is over,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Commons Speaker John Bercow yesterday pleaded with MPs on all sides to tackle the ‘toxic’ political culture.
He said of the angry exchanges on Wednesday evening: ‘There was an atmosphere in the chamber worse than any I’ve known in my 22 years in the House. On both sides passions were inflamed, angry words uttered – the culture was toxic.’