PMQs: Johnson quizzed on Partygate and comments around Rwanda policy reaction

Published by Scott Challinor on April 20th 2022, 1:01pm

Partygate, the government’s plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, and comments made by the PM about the Archbishop of Canterbury and the BBC were all on the agenda as Boris Johnson faced MPs again at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Initially asked by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer about why his press secretary, Allegra Stratton, had been forced to resign from her job, Johnson said that he “bitterly regrets” her having to stand down.

Stratton resigned after video footage emerged of her joking about a Downing Street party which took place on December 18, 2020, while Covid lockdown laws were in force.

Johnson also reiterated that he “humbly accepts” the police’s conclusion on whether he himself had broken lockdown rules, when asked whether he accepted that he he’d acted in breach of law by attending a small gathering in June 2020 for his birthday.

Meanwhile, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, suggested that Johnson was on “borrowed time” after being fined for breaking his own lockdown laws, while families were forced to pay the price for a “Tory-made cost-of-living crisis.”

Blackford highlighted figures from a poll suggesting that 82 per cent of people in Scotland believe that Johnson lied about the gatherings in Downing Street, adding that the government was embroiled in a “constant state of crisis” to keep the PM in his position.

Johnson responded by telling the chamber that his focus was “getting on with the job in hand” and “delivering for the people of the entire country”.

Later in the session, the PM refused to apologise to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the BBC over comments he reportedly made during a meeting with fellow Conservative MPs.

The Telegraph reported that during the meeting on Tuesday, Johnson said that the Archbishop and BBC had been “less vociferous” in condemning Russian president Vladimir Putin for waging war on Ukraine than they had been in response to the government’s plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Johnson also suggested that the broadcaster and “senior members of the clergy” had misconstrued the policy.

During his Easter Sunday sermon, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had spoken out against the plan to send asylum seekers arriving illegally in the UK to the African country, saying that the approach could not “stand the judgement of God”.

When Sir Keir invited the prime minister to apologise to the Archbishop during Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson refused and instead defended the Rwanda policy, saying that he had been “surprised” and “taken aback” to be “attacked” over plans to save the lives of migrants in the Channel.

The PM also insisted that he had “the highest admiration” for the work journalists had been doing and that he had not accused the BBC of being too lenient in their reporting of Putin’s conduct.

Johnson said: “I did not attack the BBC last night for their coverage of Ukraine. He [Sir Keir] must be out of his tiny mind.”

Looking to debunk the PM’s comments about the Archbishop, Sir Keir highlighted to MPs that both Welby and Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, had condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “an act of great evil” and had urged Russian forces to withdraw from the country.

Accusing Johnson of “slandering” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Keir added that the PM was guilty of slandering “decent people in a private room” and “letting the slander spread without the backbone to repeat it in public”.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
April 20th 2022, 1:01pm

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