Boris Johnson's five worst moments at the Liaison Committee

7 July 2022

3:35 AM

7 July 2022

3:35 AM

It’s not been a good day for Boris Johnson. More than 50 Tory MPs have publicly called for him to go, he’s lost 30 members of his payroll vote and he got embarrassed by Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs in a performance which, shockingly, left the House demanding MORE of the staid Labour leader. This evening he is set to meet a delegation of senior Cabinet ministers who want him to quit. Among them is Nadhim Zahawi who, less than 24 hours after professing faith in the PM’s leadership now, er, finds that post-promotion he’s lost it.

But probably the most humiliating moment was Johnson’s two hour grilling by some of his most hated Tory foes at the Liaison Committee including Tobias Ellwood, Caroline Nokes and William Wragg. There was an air of unreality to proceedings this afternoon as the embattled premier was asked about a range of issues for which Boris Johnson might, er, not be responsible for too much longer. Below are five of the lowlights from what might well be the PM’s last time facing the Liaison Committee of Select Committee chairs.

Boris gets ambushed about the delegation

The most dramatic moment came at the end of the session as rumours swirled around Westminster that Johnson was about to face a delegation of senior cabinet ministers who would call on him to resign. It was left to Darren Jones, the Business Select Committee chairman, to break the news to Boris. Jones asked if he was aware about the imminent cabal, to which Johnson reacted with complete indifference. Talk about sangfroid.

Wragg grills Johnson about Pincher

One awkward exchange involved the PM and his mutinous backbencher, Will Wragg. The baby-faced assassin asked Johnson what particular traits made Chris Pincher so attractive as deputy chief whip. After some standard Johnsonian bluster (quelle surprise), the embattled blonde said that Pincher had ‘excellent administrative skills’. The Tory leader was also asked if he considered appointing Chris Pincher as Chief Whip in February. Johnson replied ‘Not to my recollection’; an evasive reply which led to yet more probing by Wragg and Sir Bernard Jenkin.

Missing ministers need to be filled

Having lost more than 15 ministers, Boris now has something of a recruitment problem. Unfortunately when asked by Stephen Crabb how he intended to fill these roles, given that no-one wants to serve under Johnson, the PM didn’t have many answers. The latter replied cooly that ‘When I came into Parliament I think there were about 140 Conservative MPs; there are now 360 or so. There is a wealth of talent Stephen, and we should be confident in out ability’. Johnson’s fellow Tories in the room seemed unconvinced.

Lebedev cross-examination

While his mind was doubtless elsewhere on parties and Pincher, Johnson was somewhat blindsided by a series of questions from Dame Diana Johnson. The Labour MP demanded to know if he met with former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev without officials when he was Foreign Secretary. After persistent questioning, Johnson meekly admitted that he ‘probably’ did did so back in 2018 when he served under Theresa May. The Observer previously reported Johnson ditched his security detail to meet Lebedev while he was on holiday. Has today given an old story new legs?

Queen constitutional drama

Eyebrows were practically hitting the ceiling by the time Sir Bernard Jenkin raised the question about Johnson calling an election to remain in office. The PM’s reply strongly suggested that moves to oust him could indeed prompt a snap contest, saying it would not happen ‘unless everybody is so crazy as to try and …’ before trailing off. At the end of the session Jenkin repeatedly asked Johnson if he could rule out calling an election if he lost the confidence of his MPs. Johnson’s response was to, er, fight fire with fire by repeatedly dodging the question and refusing to say he would resign if he lost the confidence of his MPs.

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