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Although he failed to mention how Johnson had lied, cheated and bullied his way into office through illegal manoeuvres, trickery and the Covert 2019 Rigged Election, Gareth Davies reminded us all of the ghastly fact that Boris Johnson had managed to cling on to power that has caused so much misery in just a year of his premiership. He said, “Can I start by congratulating the Prime Minister on his one-year anniversary as Conservative Party Leader? As we look at our long-term economic recovery…” he swiftly vaulted from compliments to pay back with a demand for funding of his pet local project. The PM was happy to oblige his Tory colleague, “Yes, indeed I can, which is why we have pledged not only £5 billion in funding for gigabit-capable broadband across the country…” He bragged neglecting to think how the impact of having Trump force him to back away from the Huawei deal might put a serious crimp in his plans. That decision was going to cost him dearly and set the UK 5G back, but pledges were cheap!
Keir Starmer started by saying, “May I start by welcoming reports this week of significant progress in the vaccine trials in Oxford? We all know that there is a long way to go, but I want to record my thanks and admiration for everyone involved in this huge effort.” The narcissistic PM was bound to take this as a personal compliment as if he was hands on in the lab, nothing could succeed without Boris! Seeking to distance himself from his nemesis Corbyn, Starmer said, “Under my leadership, national security will also be the top priority for Labour, so I want to ask the Prime Minister about the extremely serious report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which concludes that Russia poses ‘an immediate and urgent threat’ to our national security, and is engaged in a range of activities that include espionage, interfering in democratic processes, and serious crime. The Prime Minister received that report 10 months ago. Given that the threat is described as ‘immediate and urgent,’ why on earth did he sit on it for so long?”
Playground bully Johnson responded, “Actually, when I was Foreign Secretary, for the period I have been in office, we have been taking the strongest possible action against Russian wrongdoing, orchestrating, I seem to remember, the expulsion of 130—153—Russian diplomats around the world, while the right hon. and learned Gentleman sat on his hands and said nothing while the Labour party parroted the line of the Kremlin, when people in this country were poisoned on the orders of Vladimir Putin.” Right the unproven ‘False Flag’ attack that was so poorly orchestrated that the TV depiction of events resembled a Steven King movie. The supposed documentary was so farfetched that it actually highlighted the incredulity of the plot, with a happy ending as the ‘victims’ conveniently disappearing without a trace.
As a qualified Lawyer Starmer should have known better than to pretend he had not recognized at the time that what Corbyn was demanding was a fully justified legal obligation and requirement under international law, but he was so desperate to trash Corbyn that he indignantly bleated, “I stood up and condemned what happened in Salisbury, and I supported the then Prime Minister on record. I would ask the Prime Minister to check the record and withdraw that—I was very, very clear.” He started into a schoolyard slapping match with bully Boris while begging for a retraction. Starmer simply will not learn, Johnson doesn’t do retractions or apologies, ever! He said, “The report was very clear that until recently the Government badly underestimated the Russian threat and the response that it required. They are still playing catch-up. The Government have taken their eye off the ball—arguably, they were not even on the pitch. After the Government have been in power for 10 years, how does the Prime Minister explain that?”
It was bully Boris’s turn to slap back’ this was going nowhere. He just had to lie and start bragging, Johnson ridiculed, “I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s questions are absolutely absurd. There is no country in the western world that is more vigilant in protecting the interests of this country or those of the international community from Russian interference. In fact, we are going further now, introducing new legislation to protect critical national infrastructure and our intellectual property. I think that he will find if he goes to any international body or gathering around the world that it is the UK that leads the world in caution about Russian interference.” Mentioning Corbyn had riled Starmer so he tried another smack with, “I do not wish to contradict him, but he sat on his hands and said nothing. The previous Leader of the Opposition parroted the line of the Kremlin that the UK should supply—I did not hear him criticise the previous Leader of the Opposition. If he did so, now is the time for him to set the record straight.”
Bully Boris’s blows were smarting putting Starmer on the defensive; had he totally forgotten that he was the interrogator here hence the name Prime Ministers Questions? He hit back with, “I was absolutely clear in condemning what happened in Salisbury, not least because I was involved in bringing proceedings against Russia on behalf of the Litvinenko family—that is why I was so strong about it. I spent five years as Director of Public Prosecutions, working on live operations with the security and intelligence services, so I am not going to take lectures from the Prime Minister about national security. There was an Interruption as the Speaker, tiring of the petty squabble, intervened; Order. I think someone wants to go for a cup of tea—we do not want an early bath. Keir Starmer,” he said sarcastically.
Now he was being slapped down by the chair Starmer changed tactic it was time for the enabler to let it go and just try to appease Johnson, he said, “The Prime Minister says that he will introduce new legislation. I want to make it clear to him that we will support that legislation and work with the Government. It is not before time. The Prime Minister says that the Government are vigilant. Eighteen months ago, the then Home Secretary said that we did not have all the powers yet to tackle the Russian threat. He said that the Official Secrets Acts were completely out of date. Other legislation has been introduced in that 18-month period. This is about national security. Why have the Government delayed so long in introducing that legislation?” He was sounding repetitive.
The PM was on a roll, so more bragging, “This Government are bringing forward legislation, not only a new espionage Act and new laws to protect against theft of our intellectual property, but a Magnitsky Act directly to counter individuals in Russia or elsewhere who transgress human rights. Let us be in no doubt what this is really all about: this is about pressure from the Islingtonian remainers who have seized on this report to try to give the impression that Russian interference was somehow responsible for Brexit. That is what this is all about. The people of this country did not vote to leave the EU because of pressure from Russia or Russian interference; they voted because they wanted to take back control of our money, of our trade policy, of our laws. The simple fact is that, after campaigning for remain, after wanting to overturn the people’s referendum day in day out, in all the period when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was sitting on the Labour Front Bench, he simply cannot bring himself to accept that.”
The Speaker objected to Johnson’s grandstanding and interjected much as he had the week before, “Can I just gently say to the Prime Minister, as I did last time, he may have to go to Specsavers? The Chair is this way, not that way. If he could address me, we would be a lot better.” Noting that Johnson was already braced for an attack on how the Russia Report called into question the validity of the Brexit result, with a cowardly reply that missed a perfect opportunity and seriously let down the British voting public, Starmer steered well clear of demanding an investigation into the referendum vote. He just quipped, “I see the Prime Minister is already on his pre-prepared lines.”
Starmer continued, reverting to a vague repetition of what he had already asked with a “could do better” tone he said, “This is a serious question of national security. He sat on this report for 10 months and failed to plug a gap in our law on national security for a year and a half. One of the starkest conclusions in the report is that the ‘UK is clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns’. The report also highlights that this is being met with a fragmented response across Whitehall and across the Government. The report refers to this as a ‘hot potato’ with no one organisation recognising itself as having the overall lead. That is a serious gap in our defences. This is not about powers; it is about responsibility, Prime Minister. So, how is he going to address that gap and make sure the UK meets this threat with the joined-up, robust response it deserves?”
World beater Boris came out swinging, “There is no other Government in the world who take more robust steps to protect our democracy, to protect our critical national infrastructure and to protect our intellectual property, as I have said, from interference by Russia or by anyone else.” However, Boris had so wanted to Bully Starmer over Brexit, he was clearly disappointed as he was fully prepared for a good old slugging match on that one. Johnson just couldn’t let it go, declaring, “Frankly, I think that everybody understands that these criticisms are motivated by a desire to undermine the referendum on membership of the European Union that took place in 2016, the result of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman simply cannot bring himself to accept.”
The public wanted and fully expected Starmer to demand an investigation into the Brexit vote as it was more than justified, but Starmer was determined to chicken out. There was also the obvious question about the Russian connections flooding dirty money into the Tory Party, but Starmer was too spineless to ask about that either; he meandered on with, “There is a serious gap in our Official Secrets Act, laying bare for 18 months, and that is all the Prime Minister has to say about it. One way the Government could seek to clamp down on Russian influence is to prevent the spread of Kremlin-backed disinformation. Obviously, social media companies have a big role to play, but the report also highlights ‘serious distortions in the coverage provided by Russian state-owned international broadcasters such as RT’. The High Court has ruled that Russia Today broadcasts pose actual and potential harm. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is time to look again at the licensing for Russia Today to operate in the UK?”
Bully boy Boris knew Starmer’s weak spot was any connection to Corbyn and here he was backing himself into a corner by bring up RT so Boris could land a brutal volley of punches. He attacked, “I think this would come more credibly from the Leader of the Opposition had he called out the former Leader of the Opposition when he took money for appearing on Russia Today. He protested neither against the former Leader of the Opposition’s stance on Salisbury nor against his willingness to take money from Russia Today. The right hon. and learned Gentleman flip-flops from day to day. One day he is in favour of staying in the EU; the next day he is willing to accept Brexit. The Leader of the Opposition has more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach.” That was the silly line he wanted to deliver for the tabloid rags, stupid people loved that stuff. I certainly hope they do not shut down RT anytime soon it is far more interesting and informative than watching Tory propaganda on the BBC!
Tory Alexander Stafford was ready to back up the PMs Brexit barrage declaring, “Last week, the Labour party bravely abstained on a vote that attempted to tie us into the EU indefinitely, further highlighting the increasing detachment of Labour from its old heartlands, such as Rother Valley. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirm that we on this side of the House remain fully committed to delivering our promises to the British people and to restoring our full economic independence on 1 January, so that people in Thurcroft, Maltby, Dinnington and across Rother Valley get the Brexit bonanza and level-up that we so deserve?” Eager as he was Stafford was not in line to speak, but Johnson had choreographed this Brexit one, two punch ahead of time and he quipped, “I certainly can give my hon. Friend that assurance. That is what the people voted for and that is what we will deliver.”
The Speaker intervened saying, “I am going to bring Keir Starmer back for one more question. Keir Starmer.”
Starmer hated those silly gags saying, “Pre-prepared gags on flip-flops. This is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article ever published! In case the Prime Minister has not noticed, the Labour party is under new management. No Front Bencher of this party has appeared on Russia Today since I have been leading this party.” Starmer exposed his weakness again before asking, “Finally, I want to ask the Prime Minister about the appalling persecution of the Uyghur Muslims in China. We have all seen the footage of the Uyghurs being herded on to trains and heard the heartbreaking stories of forced sterilisation, murder and imprisonment.” Enable… “We support the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Government in their strong and clear condemnation of China for that in recent weeks. What further steps will the Prime Minister take? In particular, will he consider targeted sanctions against those responsible? Will he lead a concerted diplomatic action with our international partners to make it clear that this simply cannot be allowed to stand in the 21st century?”
Johnson replied, “That is why the Foreign Secretary, only this week, condemned the treatment of the Uyghurs. That is why this Government, for the first time, have brought in targeted sanctions against those who abuse human rights in the form of the Magnitsky Act. I am delighted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman now supports the Government, but last week, of course, he did not support the Government. I am glad he is with us this week. I do not know how many more questions he has got since you allowed him to come back, Mr Speaker, throughout this session.” Enabling really didn’t work it just magnified Starmer’s limp questioning and left him open to attack over whether was he supportive or not and accusations of flip flopping.
Bully Boris had Starmer on the ropes and he was going for a knock-out punch bringing up Corbyn to get Starmer riled and possibly get a good final PMQs headline before summer recess. While Starmer had failed to mention Brexit, letting down the voting public Boris wanted to batter Starmer with insults focused on Brexit plus dredge up anti-Semitism and Corbyn, “We have been getting on consistently with delivering on our agenda. A year ago, this was a Leader of the Opposition who was supporting an antisemitism-condoning Labour party and wanted to repeal Brexit. I represent a Government who were getting on with delivering on the people’s priorities: 40 new hospitals, 20,000 more police, 50,000 more nurses. And, by the way, we have already recruited 12,000 more nurses, 6,000 more doctors and 4,000 more police. We are delivering on the people’s priorities. We are the people’s Government. And, by the way, we are the Government who support the workers of this country as well, with the biggest ever increase in the living wage.” Boris bookended the session with lying empty pledges,
It was SNP Ian Blackford’s turn to pipe up, he asked, “Yesterday, the Tory party held a political Cabinet, with the Prime Minister in a panic about the majority and increasing support for Scottish independence. Apparently, their great strategy amounts to more UK Cabinet Ministers coming to Scotland. Can I tell the Prime Minister that the more Scotland sees of this UK Government, the more convinced it is of the need for Scotland’s independence? A far better plan for the Tories would be to listen to the will of the Scottish people. Before his visit tomorrow, will the Prime Minister call a halt to his Government’s full-frontal attack on devolution?”
It was a legitimate question, but all Johnson had to do was act clueless and lie so he claimed, “I really do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. The only Bill I can think of that is before the House, or will be coming before the House, and which I know enjoys cross-party support, is the UK internal market Bill. Although that is a massively devolutionary Bill, which gives huge powers straight back from Brussels to Scotland, its principal purpose is to protect jobs and protect growth throughout the entire United Kingdom to stop pointless barriers of trade between all four parts of our country. Anybody sensible would support it.”
Blackford was persistent despite his pestering being totally futile, he presented a bold case for the Scots, saying, “Anybody sensible would realise from that answer that the Prime Minister simply does not get Scotland. In 2014, the people of Scotland were promised devolution-max, near federalism and the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. Instead, we got a Tory Trade Bill that threatens our NHS, an Immigration Bill that will devastate our economy, and a power grab that will dismantle devolution. Scotland’s powers grabbed by Westminster, workers’ rights attacked, the rape clause and the bedroom tax, our NHS up for sale—the overwhelming majority in Scotland’s Parliament, its MPs and its people oppose all those measures. How can the Prime Minister claim that this is a Union of equal partners when his damaging policies will all be imposed upon Scotland against its will?”
Johnson had this covered; act dumb and just lie, he replied, “I hesitate to accuse the right hon. Gentleman of failing to listen to my last answer, but it is clear that the UK internal market Bill is massively devolutionary, with 70 powers passed from Brussels to Scotland. It is quite incredible. Of course, its purpose is very sensible, which is to protect jobs and growth throughout the entire UK, but just on a political level it seems bizarre that the Scottish nationalist party actually wants to reverse that process and hand those powers back to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. Is that really the policy? I do not think it is sensible.”
Johnson, had probably started into the session thinking he would be in for a real fight due to the Russia Report, but he need not have worried; his main protagonist really excelled in his ineptitude and lack of resolve. The PM had tried to taunt and bait Starmer into demanding an investigation of the Brexit vote because he was ready for that challenge, but the new Leader of the Opposition seemed more concerned about proving he was not like the old Leader of the Opposition: so no challenge there, great! Blackford was heavily focused on Scotland as though they had already secured independence; did he know about the dark tunnel ahead? None of these MPs seem to realize how radically different things will be in a few short months; the debating chamber will be purely ceremonial theatre, a place for the PM to play to the gallery and create media spin. Opposition MPs will have no real power to alter policy anymore after the dictatorship is solidified when the UK is fully uncoupled from EU interference. We have so little time left to rescue our democracy by investigating the Covert 2019 Rigged Election and ousting this corrupt Government from power: DO NOT MOVE ON!