Boris Johnson gave no sign that he was planning on resigning during a grilling by Commons MPs, as his leadership crisis continues to escalate.
In a dramatic encounter with the Commons Liaison Committee, which came as Mr Johnson faces the most serious crisis of his leadership, he repeatedly denied that he was planning to call a snap election to firm up his ailing premiership.
He also denied that he was going anywhere, stressing the need to tackle rising inflation and the crisis in Ukraine.
In one of the most eye-catching encounters, Labour MP Darren Jones told the Prime Minister that senior Cabinet ministers were waiting at Downing Street to tell him to go.
Mr Johnson was resolute that he saw no reason to go, repeatedly telling MPs that he was “not going to get into a running commentary on political events”.
“I have been very clear with you. I see no reason whatever for a general election now,” he told MPs.
“On the contrary, what we need is a stable Government, loving each other as Conservatives, getting on with our priorities.”
It was a bruising encounter, made somewhat surreal by the fact that the Prime Minister was quizzed for the first half of the the session on day-to-day Government policy even as further Conservative MPs call for him to quit.
When it turned to the issue of the Prime Minister’s leadership, both Labour and Conservative MPs pulled few punches.
William Wragg, a Tory MP and fierce Johnson critic, asked the Prime Minister: “At which point does it become impossible for the Queen’s government to be continued?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I really think you are underestimating the talent, energy and sheer ambition of Members of Parliament, and they want to get things done.
“The Government of this country is continuing with ever-increasing energy.”
Mr Wragg told him that even more Tories had resigned in the time Mr Johnson had faced the committee, and asked whether he thought there was sufficient supply “of those young thrusters on the back benches” to replace them.
Mr Johnson said: “I think it highly likely, yes.
“Maybe we are all deluded in our ambitions, but I think most people who come to this place – in spite of what everybody says about MPs – are actuated by the highest motives.”
He repeatedly stressed that he had a mandate from the 2019 general election to lead the country.
“I look at the biggest war in Europe for 80 years and I can’t for the life of me see how it is responsible just to walk away from that. Particularly not when you have a mandate of the kind that we won two, three years ago.”
The controversy over Chris Pincher inevitably dominated proceedings.
Mr Pincher quit as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two men while drunk at London’s Carlton Club.
The Prime Minister later acknowledged he had previously been informed of allegations against Mr Pincher dating back to 2019, and said he regretted keeping him in government beyond that point.
At one stage, Mr Johnson failed to deny whether he said “all the sex pests are supporting me” and “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature”.
The chairman of the Commons Standards Committee went on: “That sounds like a yes to me. Did you say he is a bit handsy?”
Mr Johnson insisted “it’s not a word I use”.
When asked if he ever said “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature”, the PM said: “I’m not going to get into some trivialising discussion of what I may or may not have said. This is a serious matter.
“The member has had, I believe, a complaint made against him. And that is where I propose to leave it.”
Asked about the culture in Westminster, he said: “I have given this a lot of thought and I do think there is a problem with alcohol, and I have always resisted this conclusion in the past.
“But it feels to me that some people simply cannot take their drink and we need to think how we work that in parliament.”
He added: “There is also an issue about standards of behaviour. I should have been more stringent in my approach.”
The Prime Minister repeatedly said that he did not foresee an early election.
He added: “The earliest date that I can see for a general election is two years from now or 2024, I think it is the most likely date for the next election.
“We have a huge amount to deliver. We are going to get on and do it.”
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