Boris Johnson’s scripted gag about the leader of the opposition ‘flip flopping’ over Brexit backfired after Keir Starmer reminded the house about the two Telegraph columns Johnson wrote ahead of the EU referendum.
In another heated exchange in the House of Commons at the last PMQs before summer break, both leaders went head-to-head over Tuesday’s explosive findings in the Russia report.
Appearing at the despatch box, Starmer said: ‘The High Court has ruled that Russia Today’s broadcasts pose actual and potential harm. Does the prime minister agree with me that it’s time to look again at the licensing for Russia Today to operate in the UK?’
But rather than answer the point, Johnson continued to reject the question and instead deflect attention back on to the Labour leader.
Referencing Jeremy Corbyn, he explained: ‘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.’
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And in another scripted gag, he continued: ‘He [Sir Keir] flip flops from day-to-day. One day he is favour of staying in the EU, the next he’s willing to accept Brexit.
‘Mr Speaker, the leader of the opposition has more flip flops than Bournemouth beach.’
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle recalled Sir Keir to the despatch box to answer the claims.
‘Pre-prepared gags on flip flops. This is the columnist who wrote two versions of any article ever published,’ Sir Keir exclaimed, referring to two articles the prime minister wrote during the EU referendum campaign.
His response sparked an immediate reaction from MPs who were heard erupting in cheers and laughter.
Sir Keir added: ‘In case the prime minister hasn’t noticed: the Labour Party is under new management and no frontbencher of this party has appeared in front of Russia Today since I’ve been leading this party’.