Boris Johnson is facing growing pressure to apologise after he said the ‘best way to honour the memory’ of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox is for Parliament to ‘get Brexit done’ as John Bercow condemned the ‘toxic’ House of Commons.
The Prime Minister also claimed the ‘best way’ for MPs to stay ‘properly safe’ is for them to help him deliver the UK’s departure from the European Union on October 31.
Mr Johnson made the comments during a fiery clash in the Commons last night as numerous MPs urged him to tone down his Brexit rhetoric as they suggested it was putting their lives at risk.
This morning Mr Bercow pleaded with MPs on all sides to calm down as he said the atmosphere in the Commons was ‘worse than any I’ve known in my 22 years in the House’.
MPs today launched a bid to force the PM to apologise as they demanded – and were granted – an urgent question in the Commons on his remarks.
But Mr Johnson snubbed the request for him to face a grilling as he sent junior Cabinet Office minister Kevin Foster to answer questions on his behalf.
Mr Johnson chose instead to attend a private meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs.
Last night’s debate in the Commons had exploded into acrimony after Mr Johnson appeared to dismiss MPs’ safety concerns as ‘humbug’ as he repeatedly referred to an anti-No Deal law passed by Parliament earlier this month as the ‘Surrender Act’.
Opposition MPs responded to Mr Johnson’s comments by claiming he has ‘no moral compass of any kind’ as they claimed he is ‘totally unfit for office’.
Members of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet also hit out at the remarks as Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said politicians needed to remember their words had an impact and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said everyone must be ‘mild in our language’.
Brendan Cox, Jo’s widower, said he ‘felt a bit sick’ after hearing what Mr Johnson had said and this morning told ITV he was ‘shocked’.
Ms Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, told Sky News that she had been left ‘dumbstruck’ as she watched the Commons clashes.
But James Cleverly, the chairman of the Conservative Party, defended the PM and suggested he had nothing to apologise for.
Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street today, responded to concerns about the safety of MPs in the Commons last night by saying ‘humbug’
Mr Johnson was told by numerous MPs that they feared for their safety as they urged him to moderate his language
Members of the Cabinet expressed disquiet at what Mr Johnson had said in the Commons
John Bercow calls for calm as he urges MPs to ‘lower the decibel level’
John Bercow pleaded with MPs on all sides to calm down this morning as the fallout continued from Boris Johnson’s combative performance in the House of Commons last night.
The Commons Speaker said the House ‘did itself no credit’ in the angry exchanges which followed the Prime Minister’s statement on Wednesday night.
As MPs returned to the Commons today, Mr Bercow said: ‘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.’
He told them to ‘lower the decibel level and to try to treat each other as opponents, not as enemies’.
Mr Johnson addressed the Commons last night after Parliament resumed following the Supreme Court’s bombshell ruling that his prorogation was unlawful.
There were angry clashes from the start as Mr Johnson refused to apologise for suspending Parliament as he maintained his position that while he respected the court’s ruling he disagreed with it.
Anger levels then spiked after Labour MP Paula Sheriff said the PM ‘should be absolutely ashamed of himself’ over his Brexit rhetoric as she pointed to Ms Cox’s commemorative shield which is on the wall in the Commons chamber.
Ms Sheriff said: ‘We stand here under the shield of our departed friend. Many of us in this place are subject to death threats and abuse every single day.
‘Let me tell the Prime Minister that they often quote his words—Surrender Act, betrayal, traitor—and I, for one, am sick of it.’
She told the PM politicians ‘must moderate our language’ but he replied: ‘I have to say that I have never heard such humbug in all my life.’
He also said the ‘best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox, and indeed to bring this country together, would be, I think, to get Brexit done’
And responding to concerns about MPs’ safety, he said: ‘Believe me: the best way to ensure that every parliamentarian is properly safe and to dial down the current anxiety in this country is to get Brexit done. I hope that he will support us.’
Mr Johnson’s comments prompted howls of anger as a number of MPs walked out of the chamber.
Jess Phillips, the Labour MP, tweeted: ‘I’m not scared of an election, I am scared I might be hurt or killed.’
Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson attacked the PM and said that she had just had to report a ‘threat against my child’ to the police as she said ‘we must be able to find a way to conduct ourselves better’.
But the PM’s combative performance prompted applause and a standing ovation from many Tory MPs.
Dominic Grieve, the former Tory MP who was stripped of the whip after backing a bid to block a No Deal Brexit, said he found the standing ovation given to Mr Johnson ‘terrifying’.
John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, today called for calm as he said last night’s debate was the most ‘toxic’ he could remember
He told ITV: ‘I find it terrifying actually. This is somebody who is a pathological liar, one can watch him do it in the chamber of the House of Commons.
‘I agree with Jess [Phillips]. He has no moral compass of any kind at all and it was quite deliberate, what he was saying was ‘you do as I say and you won’t be subject to death threats’.
‘That was the impact of that comment. It is total populism.’
Ms Morgan also expressed discontent at Mr Johnson’s remarks as she tweeted: ‘I know the PM is aware of & sympathetic about the threats far too many of us have received because I shared with him recently the threats I am getting.
‘But at a time of strong feelings we all need to remind ourselves of the effect of everything we say on those watching us.’
Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons after the PM’s statement: ‘What has happened to other Members, particularly on social media, has been deeply unpleasant and troubling.
‘We all have a responsibility to be mild in our language when we are speaking in this House or outside.’
Mr Cox told ITV’s Good Morning programme today that the ‘tone of our politics is descending into the gutter’.
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly, pictured arriving in Downing Street this morning, has defended Mr Johnson. Dominic Cummings, pictured heading into Number 10 today, has been accused of plotting a ‘People versus Parliament’ election campaign
Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’s widower, said he ‘felt a bit sick’ after hearing what Mr Johnson had said
Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister, told Sky News this morning that she had been left ‘dumbstruck’ as she watched last night’s debate in the House of Commons
He said: ‘It was one of those moments where you’re shocked. I have to say I didn’t expect Jo’s name to be used in that way. It made me feel sick.’
He urged MPs to ‘remember what Jo always said which is we do have more in common than that which divides us’.
Ms Leadbeater added: ‘I think the PM needs to think very carefully about the language he uses.’
Mr Cleverly defended Mr Johnson’s comments as he denied that the PM labelled Opposition MPs ‘traitors’.
‘The accusations thrown at him yesterday were deeply unfair,’ he said.
‘He was accused of calling people traitors – he has never done that.’
Mr Cleverly admitted that Mr Johnson had used the word ‘betray’ during yesterday’s debate.
Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary, said the performance by the Prime Minister in the Commons had put off MPs from offering cross-party support to a Brexit deal.
‘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.