Boris Johnson swears in Commons as he calls for 15 October election

4 September 2019, 13:21 | Updated: 4 September 2019, 18:43

Boris Johnson swore in the House of Commons during his first Prime Minister's Questions as he branded Jeremy Corbyn a "chlorinated chicken" for snubbing a general election.

The prime minister told MPs he is ready to push ahead with an election on 15 October if they succeed in legislating against a no-deal Brexit later on Wednesday.

He accused the Labour leader and other opposition parties of supporting a "surrender bill" in their efforts to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a divorce agreement.

Mr Johnson also repeated the words of shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who previously described her own party's "high-risk" economic strategy as "s***-or-bust".

He told MPs: "I think they're both."

On Tuesday night, Mr Johnson suffered defeat - in the first Commons vote he has faced - when MPs voted to seize control of the Commons timetable from the government.

They will later use this opportunity to introduce a bill, which aims to compel the prime minister to seek a fresh three-month delay to Brexit if he fails to secure a new deal with the EU next month.

Mr Corbyn accused Mr Johnson of trying to "run down the clock" to the current Brexit deadline of 31 October, as he challenged the PM to provide details of the alternative proposals he is providing to the EU.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN PARLIAMENT TODAY?

  • 3pm - MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit introduce legislation to the Commons, which would force the PM to seek a three-month delay to the UK's departure from the EU if he can't reach a new agreement with Brussels
  • 7pm - MPs begin a series of votes on the legislation looking to block no-deal Brexit
  • After - If the legislation passes, the government has vowed to push for a vote on a snap general election

Responding to the Labour leader, the prime minister told MPs he wants to secure a Brexit deal by the European Council summit on 17 October and "get Brexit done".

He added: "What his [Mr Corbyn's] surrender bill would do is wreck any chance of the talks and we don't know his strategy at all.

"He's asking for mobs and Momentum activists to paralyse the traffic in his name.

"What are they supposed to chant? What is the slogan? 'What do we want? Dither and delay. When do want it? We don't know.'

"That's his policy. Can he confirm now that he will allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on October 15 - or is he frit?"

Labour have said they will not vote for an early general election, in the face of Mr Johnson's challenge, until the efforts to legislate against a no-deal Brexit succeed.

Mr Johnson will likely need two thirds of MPs to vote for an early election and he therefore requires Labour's backing.

The prime minister noted how Mr Corbyn has frequently voiced concerns about the impact of a trade deal with America and subsequent alterations to UK food standards.

Again challenging the Labour leader to an election, he then quipped: "There's only one chlorinated chicken in this House."

Mr Corbyn accused Mr Johnson of being "absolutely desperate to avoid scrutiny" over his Brexit strategy, during which the prime minister appeared to implore the Labour leader to "call an election, you great big girl's blouse".

Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi was later applauded in the Commons chamber as he called on Mr Johnson to apologise for his "derogatory" past comments.

He said: "I understand the hurt and the pain felt by Muslim women when they are called bank robbers and letterboxes, and the prime minister must apologise now for his derogatory and racist remarks which have led to a spike in hate crimes."

In response, the prime minister said: "Under this Government we have the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this country."

He also claimed there has been "no ounce of an apology from the Labour Party for the antisemitism which is deep in their ranks".

ANALYSIS: Johnson's first PMQs shows even an hour is a long time in politics these days

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Boris Johnson's first Prime Minister's Questions was never likely to be a dull affair but even he is unlikely to have expected it to be so eventful.

Those watching on saw an opposition leader who has repeatedly said he wants a general election, heckled by a prime minister who has always said he doesn't - for not allowing an election to take place.

Normal has gone out of the window.

During the session Mr Johnson said he did not want an election, but later he said it would be the only way to resolve the impasse in parliament if MPs back a bill this evening which would block a no-deal Brexit.

He waved his arms at Jeremy Corbyn in a sign of clear growing exasperation at the Labour leader's decision not to back a vote despite repeatedly calling for one.

It was a terse exchange, watched over by the large group of former Conservative MPs who were last night booted out of the party for voting against the government.

Instead of sitting on the opposition benches, as is convention, they sat among former colleagues - making a very clear political point.

It wasn't just with Mr Corbyn that Mr Johnson clashed though, he was told off by the Speaker for breaking convention and using Mr Corbyn's name in the chamber - the prime minister shook his head as he was admonished.

Mr Johnson, perhaps nervous on his first PMQs outing, had been given a folder to reference for each planned MP question with small pictures attached to make it easier for him to spot them in the chamber.

The standout moment of the session however was a question from Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who took Mr Johnson to task over previous remarks he has made about Muslim women and their traditional dress.

The Labour MP have a passionate plea for an apology but Mr Johnson defended his comments as a liberal defence of people's right to wear whatever they want.

Conservative MPs sat quietly while opposition members clapped at the question.

The mood in the Commons was a long way from the start of the session, when Mr Johnson joked that Mr Corbyn was a chlorinated chicken.

At the moment even an hour is a long time in politics.