Boris Johnson's 'shocking' language in parliament has ruined chances of Brexit deal, Diane Abbott says

'I have spoken to people who might want to consider a Boris Johnson deal but that is over'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 26 September 2019 09:06 BST
Boris Johnson: best way to honour memory of Jo Cox is to 'get Brexit done'

Diane Abbott has insisted Boris Johnson's "shocking" performance in the Commons has put off MPs from offering cross-party support to a Brexit deal.

Referring to Labour MPs who were contemplating backing the prime minister should he eventually return a deal next month, the shadow home secretary claimed they were now reconsidering.

Ms Abbott's remarks came after Mr Johnson was widely condemned for telling MPs they should honour the memory of murdered parliamentarian Jo Cox by delivering Brexit.

The prime minister was repeatedly asked to tone down his "inflammatory" and dangerous rhetoric in the chamber, but dismissed this as "humbug".

Asked on BBC's Radio 4 Today programme whether Mr Johnson's comments made it less likely Labour MPs would back his Brexit plans, Ms Abbott replied: "Absolutely."

"I have heard from and seen comments from Members of Parliament who might have wanted to consider a Boris Johnson deal and that is over."

The senior Labour frontbencher's comments came as MPs from across the Commons condemned Mr Johnson, and cabinet minister Nicky Morgan also appeared to acknowledge concerns about his use of language, particularly in the context of threats of violence against politicians.

"But at a time of strong feelings we all need to remind ourselves of the effect of everything we say on those watching us," she tweeted.

Defending the prime minister's remarks, however, the Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly, said: "Frankly, I can't see how this is going to calm down until the big issue which causes big division has been resolved quickly to leave by 31st."

And he rejected claims Mr Johnson had labelled opposition MPs as "traitors", adding: "The accusations thrown at him yesterday were deeply unfair. He was accused of calling people traitors - he has never done that."

Labour’s Paula Sherriff, a friend of the Ms Cox, had told the prime minister on Wednesday evening in the Commons that people sending MPs abuse and death threats often echoed the language he used, and said he should be “absolutely ashamed of himself”.

She mentioned a House of Commons memorial to Ms Cox, who was stabbed and shot dead by a supporter of the far right in 2016, as she urged the prime minister to “moderate” his language.

Speaking during an ill-tempered debate in the Commons, Ms Sherriff said: “I genuinely do not seek to stifle robust debate but this evening the prime minister has continually used pejorative language to describe an Act of Parliament passed by this House.

Boris Johnson: best way to honour memory of Jo Cox is to 'get Brexit done'

“I’m sure that you would agree, Mr Speaker, that we should not resort to using offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation which we do not like.”

She added: “We stand here under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day and let me tell the prime minister that they often quote his words - ‘surrender act’, ‘betrayal’, ‘traitor’ - and I for one am sick of it.

But Mr Johnson dismissed her concerns, saying: “I have to say, Mr Speaker, that I have never heard so much humbug in my life.

Tracey Brabin, who succeeded Mrs Cox as MP for Batley and Spen following her 2016 murder, said Mr Johnson needed to remember "his words have consequences".

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