Johnson brushes off assertion he is ‘loathed’ by his own MPs

UK prime minister defends record on NHS and economy following confidence vote

Boris Johnson has warned Conservative rebels that “nothing and no one” will stop him from continuing as prime minister, brushing aside Labour’s assertion that he is loathed by his own MPs. Speaking during his first prime minister’s questions since 148 of his MPs said they had no confidence in his leadership, Mr Johnson acknowledged that he was not universally liked.

Mr Johnson was responding to Labour MP Angela Eagle’s jibe that the events of the past week showed “just how loathed this prime minister is — and that is only in his own party”.

“In a long political career so far — barely begun — I’ve of course picked up political opponents all over and that is because this government has done some very big and very remarkable things which they didn’t necessarily approve of,” he said.

“And what I want her to know is that absolutely nothing and no one, least of all her, is going to stop us with getting on delivering for the British people.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said that while the Conservatives were squabbling over Mr Johnson’s leadership, the government was failing people who depended on public services.

The prime minister responded with a defence of his record regarding the National Health Service and said the economy was growing and unemployment was at its lowest level since 1974.

“We are cutting the costs of business to make this the enterprise centre of Europe. That is our vision: creating high-wage, high-skilled jobs for this country. As for jobs, I am going to get on with mine and I hope he gets on with his,” he said.

Conservative peer Helena Morrissey resigned on Wednesday from a junior foreign office post after she criticised Mr Johnson and said he should not be prime minister. Former justice secretary David Gauke said Mr Johnson was not capable of leading an effective, competent government.

“One of the difficulties that the government has is it does lack a sense of direction,” he told Times Radio. “There is a lack of coherence about it. And the person responsible for that is the prime minister. So if you want an effective, competent government with a vision you probably want a different prime minister.”

Some of Mr Johnson’s critics hope to change the party’s rules to allow for another vote of no confidence in his leadership within the next 12 months. But Mr Gauke predicted that Mr Johnson would still be prime minister at the next Conservative Party conference in October and warned that the rebels would have a fight on their hands if they tried to remove him from office.

“I think Boris Johnson is weakened, I think he is wounded, but he survives. He will press on as one would expect from him. This is going to still take quite an effort from Conservative MPs to remove him, perhaps later this year, perhaps next year. But if that is what they want to do, they have got a fight on their hands,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times