PMQs: Boris Johnson declares Tory 'talent' vying to replace him would 'wipe the floor' with Labour
Boris Johnson faced questions on his record in government as Sir Keir Starmer listed accusations of economic mismanagement and policy mistakes made by the Conservative leadership contenders.
In defiance, the Prime Minister declared any of the Tory leadership candidates would “wipe the floor” with Labour as he said he would be using the remaining days of his premiership to push his Government’s levelling-up agenda.
Using his final appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions to swipe at his former chancellor Rishi Sunak, Johnson declared his premiership had seen his “mission largely accomplished”.
He then signed off his final appearance at the despatch box by quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character in the 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day, telling MPs: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Quizzed on why Tuesday night’s leadership debate had been cancelled, Mr Johnson praised the “talent’ in the running to replace him.
The final two candidates will be decided about 4pm today, with Mr Sunak set to make the final cut alongside one of challengers Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt.
Sky News had been forced to axe a planned televised debate after Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt indicated they would be pulling out.
Mr Johnson said: “I’m not following this thing particularly closely, but my impression is that there’s been quite a lot of debate already, and I think the public are having ample opportunity to view the talent , Mr Speaker, any one of which as I say before like some household detergent would wipe the floor [with the opposition]."
Sir Keir used the occasion to interrogate Mr Johnson on whether he agreed with his former chancellor’s assessment the other leadership candidates were using “fantasy economics of unfunded spending promises”.
The leader of the opposition was labelled a “great pointless human bollard” by the Prime Minister after he quoted leadership candidates’ criticisms, including Kemi Badenoch’s accusation the Government handed taxpayers’ money “directly to fraudsters in Covid loans”.
In his final question, Sir Keir said: “I think the message coming out of this leadership contest is pretty clear – they got us into this mess and have no idea how to get us out of it.”
Labour MPs waved goodbye at Mr Johnson as he delivered his reply, with one shouting: “Nurse, it’s time to go.”
Mr Johnson told Sir Keir: “What does it say about him that no-one can name a single policy after three years of the Labour opposition apart from putting up taxes?
“He’s one of those pointless plastic bollards you find around a deserted roadworks on the motorway.”
The show of support for Mr Johnson, who received a standing ovation from the Government benches, in his final hurrah was in stark contrast to the events of recent weeks which saw dozens of Conservative MPs quit their posts in a bid to force him out after a series of scandals.
Mr Johnson’s valedictory speech came after veteran Conservative backbencher Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) praised his record.
Labour MPs could be heard shouting “no” as Sir Edward said: “On behalf of the House may I thank the Prime Minister for his three years’ record of service.”
The outgoing Prime Minister offered advice to his successor with his final words, telling them to stay close to America and to stick up for Ukraine and “freedom and democracy everywhere”.
He also recommended tax cuts and to not always listen to the Treasury in a clear swipe at Mr Sunak, the frontrunner in the battle for his job.
Marking Mr Johnson’s final appearance, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also thanked the Prime Minister and his family, stating the outgoing Tory leader would “always be remembered” for the way he conducted himself during the pandemic.
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