This is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the distressing scenes when he showed contempt for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court; the supremacy of Parliament and the safety of MPs, particularly female and ethnic minority politicians, after ignoring repeated pleas to moderate his language of ‘surrender’, ‘capitulation’ and ‘humiliation’.
Words have consequences, as the Prime Minister should know, and his shameful and shameless ‘bully boy’ approach – it could be potentially construed as inciting violence – demeaned himself, his office and his country to such an extent that it will now be impossible for him to progress Brexit on his terms or unite the country.
The most shocking exchanges since Parliament was first televised 30 years ago, Mr Johnson’s inability to show any humility or compassion after the Supreme Court ruling left the Government bereft of credibility was compounded by his arrogance.
Tensions were already running high during this horrendous three-hour spectacle when the Tory leader repeatedly used the language of war to mock the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act – instigated by Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn – to stop a no-deal Brexit.
A piece of legislation enacted by a majority of democratically-elected MPs, Mr Johnson had already been obfuscating over his intended compliance when Justine Greening – the Rotherham-born former Education Secretary and a conciliatory individual – said gently that “continuing to call a Bill that the House has passed a “surrender Bill” is deeply disrespectful” to the Commons.
Johnson’s brusque reply? “I do think that the surrender Act has done grave damage.” And, amid the uproar, his aggressive approach became indefensible when Dewsbury’s Paula Sherriff, a MP who has to live with death threats, said – in the very next exchange – that “we should not resort to the use of offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation that we do not like”.
She added: “We stand here, Mr Speaker, under the shield of our departed friend. Many of us in this place are subject to death threats and abuse every single day. Let me tell the Prime Minister that they often quote his words — surrender Act, betrayal, traitor — and I, for one, am sick of it. We must moderate our language, and that has to come from the Prime Minister first, so I should be interested in hearing his opinion. He should be absolutely ashamed of himself.”
Yet, as Labour MPs gave Ms Sherriff a standing ovation for standing up for the memory of Jo Cox, the Batley & Spen MP murdered by a far-right extremist during the 2016 EU referendum, the Prime Minister blustered on in the style of President Donald Trump.
“I have to say that I have never heard such humbug in all my life,” he said to cries of “shame”. “Mr Speaker, let me just explain why I call it the surrender Act. That is because it would oblige us to stay in the EU for month after month, at a cost of a billion pounds per month.”
Yes, the latter is a valid political point, but Mr Johnson compounded his crassness when Tracy Brabin, who succeeded the late Mrs Cox as Batley’s MP, again asked for moderation “so that we will all feel secure when we are going about our jobs?”
Again Mr Johnson showed a complete inability to conduct himself as a Prime Minister, never mind a statesman. “Well, no. Of course there will be an attempt to try to obfuscate the effect of this Act — the capitulation Act, the surrender Act or whatever you want to call it,” he went on.
“It does. I am sorry, but it greatly enfeebles this Government’s ability to negotiate. What I will say is that the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox, and indeed to bring this country together, would be, I think, to get Brexit done.”
A total misrepresentation of Mrs Cox, a Remain supporter, and her ‘more in common’ in mantra, the confrontational and Trumpian PM then took the coward’s option at the end of the exchanges.
Despite a request from Speaker John Bercow to remain in his place and listen to the inevitable points of order about his (mis)conduct, the wildly Boris Johnson chickened out and scuttled off without having to listen to Labour’s Lucy Powell explain how MPs had left Parliament in tears – and that the family of Jo Cox had contacted her to say that they were “very distressed” by the proceedings.
It leaves Parliament facing a very stark and simple choice – collective action now across the political divide to save Britain’s democratic values or a dangerous, dishonest and divisive premier whose only care is himself and who has just made it even harder for MPs to do their duties in safety.