The roars created an ear-splitting cri de joie – the sort that probably erupted in Roman amphitheatres whenever a gladiator speared his opponent through the spleen with a javelin.
The House of Commons, over which such gloom has hung for the past three years that you could have mistaken it for the wretched Miss Havisham’s attic, finally blasted back to life.
Tory MPs thundered as Boris Johnson entered the chamber, plonking his great gorilla hulk down on the green benches with a thud. They exploded with exuberance when he spoke of his plans to make the United Kingdom ‘the greatest place on earth’.
Boris Johnson took to the despatch box in the House of Commons for the first time as Prime Minister today, answering questions from party leaders and dozens of MPs
Most of all, they raucously bellowed after he skewered ‘the sceptics and the doubters’ on Labour’s front bench.
Indeed, he lampooned John McDonnell so mercilessly that the Shadow Chancellor – who can dish it out but can’t take it – almost flounced out.
The new Prime Minister was making his first appearance at the despatch box and, as promised, he brought along the sunshine. Temperatures may have been 38 degrees outside but the feelgood factor among most Tories was even warmer.
‘Too many people in this country have been told repeatedly and relentlessly what we cannot do. Since I was a child, I remember respectable authorities asserting our time as a nation has passed… that we should be content with mediocrity and managed decline,’ said Johnson of Britain’s ‘doubters’
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn failed to land any serious blows against Johnson in their first encounter over the despatch box. Johnson later laid into the Labour for continuing to not show consistency on their position over Brexit
Johnson’s message, as it has been all week, was one of optimism. Talk me down, folks, and you talk down the country. Labour, for now, have been totally scorched.
Performance-wise, it was a corker. It’s been a while since a British prime minister devoted so much energy to their appearance at the despatch box.
Those arms! Waving, jabbing, pointing, while his lower half pirouetted as if he were the Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov after several tumblers of vodka.
On Corbyn’s conversion to remain
A most extraordinary thing happened today. Did anybody notice the terrible metamorphosis that took place, like the final scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers?
At last, this long-standing Eurosceptic (Corbyn) has been captured. He has been jugulated, reprogrammed, turned into a Remainer!
Of all the flip-flops in his tergiversating career, that is the one for which he will pay the highest price.
Jeremy Corbyn suddenly looked very old. As Tornado Boris swirled around the house, Jezza sat as sullen and stony-faced as an Easter Island statue. He reminded me of a despondent snooker player looking on as his opponent began a maximum break of 147.
Johnson entered behind the Speaker’s chair at 11.30am, giving Michael Gove a hearty thwack on the back.
Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg was proving the perfect warm-up act as he set out his parliamentary timetable. Witty, charming, with a hint of metal. As he waited to be called, the PM scanned the chamber from his new viewpoint, drinking it all in. ‘Here we are at last,’ he seemed to be thinking.
His statement laid out sweeping dreams for the country beyond 2050, when he said the UK would be the biggest economy in Europe and where our grandchildren would live ‘longer, happier and healthier lives’.
He repeated his promise for 20,000 extra police officers, saying he had instructed new Home Secretary Priti Patel to make it her top priority. Sharp-tongued Priti beamed from ear to ear – not her natural repose. Chancellor Sajid Javid grinned apprehensively, wondering how he would pay for them.
…and on Corbyn’s cosy links with Iran
He (Corbyn) has been paid by Press TV of Iran… he sides with the mullahs of Tehran rather than our friends in the United States over the Persian gulf.
How incredible that we should even think of entrusting him with the stewardship of this country’s security.
Enthusiasm was not entirely total. Justine Greening (Tory – Putney) gave a few weary, Remainer sighs. Sir Nicholas Soames (Tory – Mid Sussex) sat, head slumped on fist, as though modelling for Rodin’s Thinker.
Over on the opposition benches, shadow education spokesman Angela Rayner squawked furiously whenever Johnson mentioned schools.
If Brexit was uttered, Sir Keir Starmer waggled his right foot impatiently, itching to befuddle the new PM with boring legal jargon. Shadow trade minister Barry Gardiner and Ed Miliband exchanged dismissive shakes of the head.
For Corbyn, this should have been an opportunity to draw blood on a new Prime Minister ahead of the summer recess. To show Conservatives that their Zeus bleeds.
‘At last, this long-standing Eurosceptic (Corbyn) has been captured. He has been jugulated, reprogrammed, turned into a Remainer! Of all the flip-flops in his tergiversating career, that is the one for which he will pay the highest price,’ said Johnson of Jeremy Corbyn
‘If we bend our sinews to the task now, there is every chance that in 2050, when I fully intend to be around, although not necessarily in this job, we will be able to look back on this extraordinary period as the beginning of a new golden age for our United Kingdom,’ Johnson in Britain’s new ‘golden age’
Predictably, he rose to the occasion with all the panache of a lonely pub bore. Dear me, he was flat. Boris’s pizzazz appeared to have steamrolled him.
‘No one underestimates this country,’ Corbyn said, trying to dismiss Johnson’s depiction of him as a sulky naysayer.
‘You do!’ the Tories cried.
Corbyn never recovered. He plodded on with little enthusiasm. Behind him, Labour members fanned themselves and fiddled with their phones in wild indifference.
On proving Britain’s doubters wrong
Too many people in this country have been told repeatedly and relentlessly what we cannot do.
Since I was a child, I remember respectable authorities asserting our time as a nation has passed… that we should be content with mediocrity and managed decline.
Time and again, by their powers to innovate and adapt, the British people have shown the doubters wrong. I believe that at this pivotal moment in our national story, we are going to prove them wrong again.
It was when Corbyn sat down that Johnson really went to work on him.
Here is the man paid by Press TV of Iran, he said, who repeatedly sides with the mullahs of Tehran over our American friends. And people are considering putting him in charge of our national security!
The next target was McDonnell. Johnson pointed out he was sacked by Ken Livingstone at the Greater London Council for being too left-wing. He’ll raise tax on inheritances, on pensions, on corporations and then nick your garden.
McDonnell crossly rose to his feet. I don’t have to put up with this, he seemed to be saying.
‘Wooooooo!’ his opponents cried. McDonnell then appeared to have second thoughts about walking off and sat down with a glass of water, slurping it the way that shaken seadogs nurse a large brandy.
Back to Corbyn. Johnson noted how he had said Labour planned to campaign for Remain in a second referendum.
On a ‘new golden age’
If we bend our sinews to the task now, there is every chance that in 2050, when I fully intend to be around, although not necessarily in this job, we will be able to look back on this extraordinary period as the beginning of a new golden age for our United Kingdom.
He scorned: ‘Did anybody notice the terrible metamorphosis that happened today? Like the final scene of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers? At last, this long-standing Eurosceptic has been captured, jugulated, reprogrammed by his friends! He has been turned now into a Remainer!’
Corbyn was a picture of bewilderment. What was this unfamiliar weapon he was being attacked with? His predecessor certainly never deployed it.
Ah, humour. That deadliest of arrows.
When Boris Johnson eventually departed the chamber, few would have forgiven him for uncorking something over lunch. It had been a very satisfactory opening knock.
As they broke for recess last night, for the first time in a very long while it was Tory MPs heading off with a spring in their step.