The Prime Minister last night failed in an audacious bid to split the opposition and enlist the SNP to help him secure the general election he desperately needs to deliver Brexit.
Mr Johnson appealed to the nationalists, Liberal Democrats and smaller opposition parties to table a vote of no confidence in his government, but was again refused unless the government asks the EU for a delay to Brexit.
In some of the angriest scenes witnessed in the House of Commons in recent years, Mr Johnson condemned opposition MPs for their “betrayal” of Brexit voters, and was defiant in the wake of a historic ruling from the Supreme Court that his prorogation of parliament was unlawful, insisting judges were “wrong”.
The Prime Minister was unrepentant after being summoned back to parliament, daring opposition parties to table a motion of no confidence and insisting that they “finally face the day of reckoning with the voters”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “disgusted” by Mr Johnson’s conduct at the Commons despatch box, but Tory MPs and their DUP allies gave his statement a sustained round of applause.
Opposition parties were offered a window of a few hours last night to table a confidence vote and have it debated on government time today.
In an echo of the events of 1979, when the SNP and Liberals supported a motion of no confidence in the Labour government, bringing about an election won by Margaret Thatcher, Mr Johnson asked the Commons if “the smaller parties fancy a go”.
Downing Street indicated that in the absence of a confidence vote, it would continue with its plans to leave the EU on 31 October despite legislation requiring a delay, and did not rule out a second prorogation of Parliament to allow a Queen’s Speech.
In a furious Commons statement pitting the public against MPs that was repeatedly interrupted by shouts of “liar”, Mr Johnson said: “The people of this country can see perfectly clearly what is going on.
“They know that this Parliament does not want to honour its promises to respect the referendum.
“The people at home know that this Parliament will keep delaying, it will keep sabotaging the negotiations because they don’t want a deal.”
Turning to the Supreme Court ruling, the Prime Minister continued: “Instead of facing the voters, the opposition turned tail and fled from an election. Instead of deciding to let the voters decide, they ran to the courts instead.
“And despite the fact that I followed the exact same process as my predecessors in calling a Queen’s Speech, the Supreme Court was asked to intervene in this process for the first time ever and it is absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say I think the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question at a time of great national controversy.”
Mr Johnson said Parliament was “gridlocked [and] paralysed” and accused MPs of “sheer political selfishness and political cowardice”, branding legislation to rule out a no-deal Brexit as a “surrender bill”.
In rhetoric that provoked a furious reaction, Mr Johnson said: “We will not betray the people who sent us here.”
Labour MPs accused him of disrespecting the memory of their murdered colleague Jo Cox, who was called a “traitor” during her fatal assault.
After the Dewsbury MP Paula Sheriff appealed for him to “moderate” his language while pointing at a memorial plaque for Ms Cox in the Commons chamber, Mr Johnson replied: “I have never heard so much humbug in my life.”
Rejecting the appeal for a confidence vote, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was scathing about the Prime Minister’s comments about the Supreme Court. “It was said by a former prime minister ‘Where law ends, tyranny begins,’ and while it pains me to say it, the fact the Prime Minister is still standing here today, he in fact does believe he is above the law,” Mr Blackford said. “Well, he is not.”
And responding to Mr Johnson’s statement, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Johnson should stop his shameful game-playing.
“If he requests an extension and removes [the] risk of no deal on 31 October, the SNP will vote for an election. The ball’s in his court.
“But he must think we button up the back if he believes we’ll let him force through a no-deal Brexit.”
And in a brutal follow-up, she added: “I feel disgust watching Johnson. Untrustworthy, craven, not a shred of concern for the consequences of his words or actions. Unfit for office in every sense.”
The government is expected to seek a three-day parliamentary recess next week to allow the Conservative Party conference in Manchester to take place.
Downing Street warned of the economic impact for businesses in the city if the conference, which is expected to attract 11,000 delegates, is hit because MPs are unable to attend. However, opposition parties are set to block the request without a commitment to delay Brexit.
Earlier, there was angry rhetoric from the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who claimed opposition MPs were “too cowardly” to face an election.
“This Parliament is a dead Parliament, it should no longer sit,” Mr Cox said while being challenged over his legal advice on prorogation. “It has no moral right to sit on these green benches.”
He added: “Twice they have been asked to make the electorate decide upon whether they should continue to sit in their seats while they block 17.4 million people’s vote. This is a disgrace.
“They can vote no confidence at any time but they are too cowardly. They could agree to a motion to allow this House to dissolve but they are too cowardly.”
In a furious intervention, Labour MP Barry Sheerman said Mr Cox had shown “no shame at all”, adding of Mr Johnson: “For this Prime Minister to talk about morals and morality is a disgrace.”
Boris Johnson was widely condemned for telling MPs they should honour the memory of murdered parliamentarian Jo Cox by delivering Brexit.