Speaker scolds leaders at PMQs after Starmer calls PM coward – House needs respect

The Labour leader was reprimanded after calling Mr Johnson a “coward” during a bad-tempered exchange over the Westminster sleaze scandal. And the Speaker told off the Prime Minister four times for repeatedly trying to grill Mr Starmer over his past legal work with law firm Mishcon de Reya. After Mr Johnson attempted to ask again about the issue in a later exchange, the Speaker snapped: “Prime Minister, sit down. I’m not going to be challenged. You may be the Prime Minister of this country but in this House I’m in charge.”

Mr Johnson later accused Mr Starmer of “Mish-conduct”, pun intended, which prompted calls from the Labour benches for the comment to be withdrawn.

The Speaker said: “I don’t think this has done this House any good today.

“I think it’s been ill-tempered. I think it shows the public that this House has not learnt from the other week.

“I need this House to gain respect but it starts by individuals showing respect for each other.”

Despite the scolding for Mr Johnson, at the end of the session Mr Starmer was pulled up for calling the PM a “coward”.

When Mr Johnson avoided saying sorry for his handling of the Owen Paterson issue, Mr Starmer said: “Everybody else has apologised for him, but he won’t apologise for himself. A coward, not a leader.”

Mr Hoyle said it was “not the kind of language” for the Commons, ordering him to make a retraction. Mr Starmer said: “I withdraw it. But he is no leader.”

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