A vulnerable Prime Minister is good for the House of Commons, and Boris Johnson is far more vulnerable than he was.
Towards the end of PMQs, Mark Harper (Con, Forest of Dean) stood up and began: “Can I ask the Prime Minister a question about Sue Gray’s report?”
This produced groans from the Tory benches. “Well colleagues may groan,” he continued, “but I asked the Prime Minister last week and I didn’t get a straight answer.”
How bad for Johnson was this question going to be? “It’s important because it’s about those who make the law obeying the law,” Harper went on.
He proceeded to ask the Prime Minister to ensure that “Sue Gray’s final report is published immediately and in full”.
Johnson said he thought he had already answered this question, but went on to confirm that “as soon as all the inquiries are concluded I will immediately publish in full whatever Sue Gray gives me”.
That was the worst that came from the Tory benches: no David Davis or Andrew Mitchell withdrew their support.
Fabian Hamilton (Lab, Leeds North East) had earlier asked Johnson about a picture published in the last few minutes “of the Prime Minister in Downing Street on the 15th of December 2020 surrounded by alcohol, food and people wearing tinsel”.
Johnson replied that “in what he has just said I am afraid he is completely in error”.
Sir Keir Starmer’s series of questions about fraud, during which he pointed out that the “anti-fraud minister quit”, in some ways seemed relatively innocuous compared to the questions just quoted.
Johnson’s manner was robust. His position is not yet robust. This encounter will be scored in different ways according to what each judge already thought of him. In my view it was neither a victory nor a defeat, but will tend to embolden his opponents.