PMQs LIVE: Boris Johnson plans angry response to Keir Starmer after 'bendy bananas' jibe

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer are set for a Commons clash during PMQs this afternoon, following the Labour leader’s scathing assessment of the Prime Minister’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. During a keynote speech at the Labour Party’s online conference, Sir Keir criticised Mr Johnson’s “serial incompetence” both past and present.

The Labour leader hit out at a series of failings by the Tory Government during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the exams fiasco, getting children back to school and the NHS test and trace system.

Sir Keir said the Prime Minister is “just not serious” and “just not up to the job” as he set out what he sees as the “big difference” between them both.

He said: “Whenever he encounters a problem, Johnson responds either by wishing it away or by lashing out.”

The Labour leader added: “While Boris Johnson was writing flippant columns about bendy bananas, I was defending victims and prosecuting terrorists.

“While he was being sacked by a newspaper for making up quotes, I was fighting for justice and the rule of law.”

The Labour leader’s “bendy banana” comment refers to Mr Johnson’s anti-Brussels rhetoric.

The Prime Minister has previously highlighted the EU’s widely ridiculed ruling that banned rogue bananas with “malformations and abnormal curvature”.

During PMQs this afternoon Mr Johnson is expected to respond to the scathing comments, which strongly attacked the Prime Minister’s competence and character.

He is also likely to reiterate England’s new coronavirus restrictions, which he highlighted in a TV address to the nation last night.

FOLLOW EXPRESS.CO.UK FOR LIVE UPDATES (PMQs will commence at 12pm):



Andrew Neil brutally mocks SNP campaigner after Battle of Britain jibe

Ruth Wishart sparked outrage when she posted her controversial views on social media. The journalist and broadcaster tweeted: “WW2 finished 75 years ago. None of the Battle of Britain pilots is still alive. It’s not dishonouring their memory or any sacrifices to think it’s time to move on.”

Any chance you and your party might move on from the Battle of Bannockburn (1314)

Andrew Neil

BBC political heavyweight Mr Neil was quick to respond with a savage put down.

He tweeted: “Indeed. Any chance you and your party might move on from the Battle of Bannockburn (1314).

“I don’t think anybody who took part is that is still alive either.”

Ms Wishart was then forced to apologise for her initial tweet after being told one of the flying aces who protected Britain in 1940 was still alive today.

She said: “Sincere apologies to Battle of Britain pilot John Hemingway who is still alive at 101. I suggested none were, and got that wrong.”

Andrew Neil

Andrew Neil has hit out at SNP activist Ruth Wishart (Image: PA)

The Battle of Britain was a major air campaign fought in the skies over the UK in 1940, and although the battle took place between July and October, September 15 saw the RAF gain a decisive victory over the Luftwaffe in what was Nazi Germany’s largest daylight attack.

Some 1,120 Luftwaffe aircraft were sent to attack London, but were repelled by just 630 RAF fighters – and two days later Hitler postponed his plans to invade Britain.

Westminster Abbey has held a service of thanksgiving and rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday every year since 1944.

Ms Wishart’s comments came as the heroism of “The Few” was acknowledged at yeterday’s small and intimate service at the abbey to mark the battle’s 80th anniversary.

READ MORE:Ewan McGregor mocked for presenting BBC Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain memorial service

The 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain was marked with a memorial service at Westminster Abbey (Image: PA)

Battle of Britain memorial service

The Battle of Britain memorial service ended with a poignant flypast (Image: PA)

The annual service usually attracts around 2,200 people as the UK remembers the first battle in history fought entirely in the air during the Second World War.

This year’s service – the Abbey’s first since lockdown – saw attendance significantly reduced and social distancing measures in place for 79 invited guests.

Chairs for the guests, who were all wearing a face covering, were placed at the transepts of the church close to the altar.

Each chair was spaced out two metres apart to allow social distancing, with protective plastic screens separating the north and south transepts.

Boris Johnson was among the guests at the service, as well Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Stirrup, representing Prince Charles.

Mr Johnson, along with the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, gave a reading, while an address was given by the Chaplain in Chief, the Venerable Air Vice Marshal John Ellis.

He drew comparisons between the Battle of Britain and the coronavirus pandemic, stating: “Once again there have been sacrifices made, often quiet, often humble, unnoticed by many.

“Although starkly different events, each of them has two things that are so important for our humanity – service and value.

“We have seen the selfless giving to a greater cause.”

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Battle of Britain memorial service

This year’s Battle of Britain memorial service was scaled down because of coronavirus (Image: PA)

Led by Dr David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the service included an act of remembrance, during which the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour bearing the names of 1,497 pilots and aircrew killed or mortally wounded in the battle was borne through the church.

This was followed by a procession of flags, readings, prayers and music by the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment and singing by the church choir.

Around 50 members of the public gathered outside in the sunshine at Westminster Abbey to watch the flypast, which flew over the venue at the end of the service.



Macron SHAMED: Turkey brands French President’s intervention ‘arrogant’ in stinging jibe

Tensions between Greece and Turkey have escalated following a territorial dispute over a large portion of the East Mediterranean. Amid these tensions, Mr Macron urged fellow European states to take a firm stance against Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Macron made the statement during a summit on the Mediterranean island of Corsica and insisted Europe must have a united voice against Turkey.

In response, the Turkish foreign ministry denounced Mr Macron’s “arrogant” statement on the incident.

The Ministry said: “French President Macron has once again made arrogant statements, in an old colonialist style.

“The statements also promote tensions and endangers the interests of Europe and the European Union.

“Macron attacks Turkey and our president every day because we thwart his insidious projects and his dirty foreign policy games.

“Instead of posing blindly as the advocate of Greece and the Greek Cypriots, France should adopt a position favouring reconciliation and dialogue.”

In a bold move against Turkey, Mr Macron had also claimed the country deserves better leadership.

The Turkish foreign ministry, however, disputed this claim and insisted Mr Erdogan is fully supported by the public.

It added: “Our president is one of the elected leaders with the highest percentage of votes in Europe.

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Both Greece and Turkey have collided over the potential energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The two countries also share sovereignty of the island of Cyprus although Turkey only recognises the northern side.

Although the Greek military descended on the area, Mr Edorgan declared any aggression will be matched by Turkey.

Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has demanded the EU sanction Turkey and force the state to withdraw.

Writing in The Times, he said: “Later this month EU leaders will meet in special session to decide how to respond.

“If Turkey refuses to see sense by then, I see no option but for my fellow European leaders to impose meaningful sanctions.

“Because this is no longer just about European solidarity. It is about recognising that vital interests – strategic European interests – are now at stake.



Melania Trump's fiery jibe at husband's critics: 'We're proud in Europe!'

The First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) recently sparked backlash on Twitter after celebrating “hard working” Americans on Labor Day. Users quickly responded by asking what exactly it is that the First Lady does. Labor Day celebrates the American labour movement and workers contributions to the US.

Thanking workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, Melania wrote: “This Labor Day, we recognise & celebrate the hard working American workforce.Thank you for all you have done to keep our country moving, even in the most unprecedented times.”

With the US election just over 50 days away, the response of many users suggested discontent with the incumbent First Lady.

One replied: “What work did you do exactly?” while another said: “No one in this family has ever known a hard day’s work.”

It isn’t the first time Melania has been subject to criticism.

Melania Trump: The FLOTUS gave Trump's critics a stinging message after they criticised her work

Melania Trump: The FLOTUS gave Trump’s critics a stinging message after they criticised her work (Image: GETTY)

Trump: Melania and Trump pictured at the Republican Party convention

Trump: Melania and Trump pictured at the Republican Party convention (Image: GETTY)

During Mr Trump’s campaign trail 2016, the New York Post revisited Melania’s naked photoshoot with Max Magazine in 1996, with many going on to use it as a means to attack both her and the then-prospective president, Donald Trump.

She gave those critics a stinging message during a 2016 CNN interview, and said she was “proud” of the photoshoot.

Talking about what she viewed as unfair coverage of herself by the media, she said: “From the beginning, I never had one correct story – one honest story published about me.

“The New York Post, two days in a row, put me on the cover with the pictures I did many years ago as a model.

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FLOTUS latest: Melania is hoping to keep her role as First Lady in November (Image: GETTY)

“I’m very proud I did those pictures.

“I’m not ashamed of my body.

“I feel very comfortable with myself and with my body.

“They were taken for a French magazine and in Europe we are proud of our bodies – no matter what size you are.

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Trump relationship: Trump and Melania have been married for 15 years (Image: GETTY)

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“It was done as art, as a celebration of the female body.”

On November 3, Melania will find out whether she will remain FLOTUS.

Mr Trump is up against the Democrats’ Joe Biden and a handful of other nominees such as the Green’s Howie Hawkins, the Libertarian’s Jo Jorgensen.

Melania backed her husband’s cause recently during the Republican Party’s convention, delivering an impassioned speech praising Trump’s work.

Trump family tree: Melania is Trump's third wife

Trump family tree: Melania is Trump’s third wife (Image: Express Newspapers)

She said: “I want to acknowledge that since March our lives have changed drastically — the invisible enemy, COVID-19 swept throughout our country.

“Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic.”

She refrained from using her speech to “attack the other side”, and pleaded with American voters for “civility”.

However, she drew much criticism from Democrat pundits with Tom Nichols, senior adviser for the anti-Trump Republican group Project Lincoln, savaging the first lady’s address.

US election: Melania gave a speech at the Republican convention that praised her husband's work

US election: Melania gave a speech at the Republican convention that praised her husband’s work (Image: ABC News)

He said: “This is a Seinfeld speech. It’s about nothing.

“It’s certainly not about Donald Trump, other than Melania saying that she’s ‘always admired’ Donald’s commitment to his country – shya, I’m sure – and then a segue into ‘which is why I launched Be Best.’”

Mehdi Hasa, Al Jazeera presenter, also chipped in, and added: “Melania just said Trump welcomes differences of opinion. I’m dead.”



Remainer Anna Soubry can’t resist jibe at Brexit Britain ‘Not the best time to be leaving'

Ms Soubry has been a staunch critic of the UK’s departure from the EU and on Twitter, the former Leader of the Independent Group for Change insisted Britain must not leave the bloc due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. In a tweet, she said: “Not exactly the best of times to be walking away from the world’s biggest free trade area.” Ms Soubry made the comment in reference to a separate tweet from fellow former Tory MP, Nick Boles, who highlighted a graph indicating the UK’s slow economic recovery in comparison to Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Like many other economies, the UK has suffered a sharp economic decline due to the coronavirus.

Economists at the Bank of England have indicated the country may see a V-shaped recovery later in the year due to some of the economic provisions put in place.

While the UK’s economy may not be as strong as it had been prior to the outbreak, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, claimed it is now recovering quicker than first thought.

In an editorial piece for the Daily Mail, he claimed the economy is “not falling like a stone”.

He wrote: “Economic activity in the UK is not falling like a stone.

“In fact, it has now been rising for more than three months, sooner than anyone expected. It has also recovered far faster than anyone expected.”

Previously, Ms Soubry warned of a no deal Brexit prior to the deadline to extend the transition period on June 30.

In a separate tweet at the time, she accused those in the Leave camp of “lying to the country”.

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Brexit talks reconvened this week as the two sides look to agree a trade deal by the autumn.

Prior to talks resuming, a EU Commission spokesman insisted a deal must be agreed by October at the latest.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, insisted the deal must be agreed in this short timeframe in order for it be ratified by the EU 27.

With the two sides locked on several areas of divergence including fisheries and state aid, a spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted No 10 was still confident of securing a deal.

The spokesman insisted the UK would look to settle the differences as talks resume today.

Brussels has also rejected the UK’s demands for continued access to the EU for British truckers.

UK road haulage groups have warned any failure to strike a deal could hurt businesses on both side of the Channel.

A person briefed on the talks said: “The commission view is that the UK request is fundamentally unbalanced and would give rights to UK hauliers that are extremely close to single market membership.

“We cannot allow the UK to maintain pretty much the same access as it has today.”



Meghan Markle shock: Suits co-star's cheeky jibe at the Queen exposed

The private lives of Meghan Markle, 38, and Prince Harry, 35, have been speculated about in recent weeks in the lead up to the release of a tell-all book entitled ‘Finding Freedom’. Tensions have risen from alleged clashes between the Royal Family and the Sussexes, which culminated in their decision to step down from their official roles in March. The rejection came two years after the royal wedding, which was widely attended by the royals, their friends and celebrities alike. During a reflection on the London nuptials, one of Meghan’s former co-stars from the US TV show ‘Suits’ made comments about Queen Elizabeth II.

In a breakaway from tradition, Meghan and Harry’s guest list did not include politicians – other than John Major, who helped as an adviser after Princess Diana’s death – in favour of inviting those with a “direct relationship” to the couple.

Instead of an affair graced with world leaders, people from the showbiz world, sports stars and others with connections to them were featured on the guest list. 

They included a large number of the ‘Suits’ cast, who Meghan starred alongside until she finished filming in 2017 and her final episode the following year. 

After the lavish event, her former TV show colleagues were grilled on what it was like to attend and if it differed from an ordinary wedding.

Gabriel Macht, who played Harvey Spector in the court drama, reflected that Meghan’s big day had been “absolutely surreal” and “sort of mindblowing in so many ways”. 

He told the ‘Today Show’: “It was a remarkable day and to be a part of such an uplifting moment in history was sort of incredible.”

“This little man came up to me and he said I just want to let you know I’m the Queen’s Page and I love Harvey and I love ‘Suits’. 

“I was like wow that’s amazing, you know, the Queen’s page watches the show.”

Gabriel revealed that he had met a “lot of their friends and family and some polo players” – where he relished being able to “integrate into their world and see how their culture works”.

He added: “They were all very witty and intelligent and charming and it was a lovely day. 

“We all gathered as a family, shared three days there and I had a ball, you know, we had a dance party… and we had a great time.”



Princess Anne latest: Queen's daughter makes hilarious jibe at Netflix show The Crown

Princess Anne has scoffed at the two hours The Crown actress Erin Doherty spends getting hers styled to become the royal in the Netflix show. The Princess royal said in reality it takes just “ten or 15 minutes” to do her hair.

The Princess Royal admitted that she has seen the hit Netflix show documenting the life of her mother the Queen.

Princess Anne even dubbed the earlier episodes “quite interesting”.

However, Anne said she doesn’t watch The Crown any longer.

She said: “Actually I read an article the other day, I don’t watch Netflix and The Crown, but the actress was talking about how long it took them to do their hair like I did.

“And I’m thinking, ‘How could you possibly take that long?’ I mean it takes me 10 or 15 minutes.”

Anne made the comments in an ITV documentary by the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman.

The documentary marked her 70th birthday, and was quoted in The Times.

The piece features unseen family footage and conversations with her husband, Sir Timothy Laurence, and children Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall.

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Anne said she took part in virtual meetings online through the video-call app Zoom when public outings were banned.

However, the Queen’s daughter felt it was no substitute for face-to-face meetings.

“With online technology… being in touch is one thing but it’s not quite the same,’ she said. ‘The ability to meet people, that’s what makes the difference.

“I mean, I know what Twitter is but I wouldn’t go anywhere near it if you paid me frankly.”

In the documentary, the hard-working Princess Royal admitted she found lockdown tough.

However, she also expressed sympathy with those she said had had it harder than herself.

She suggested social media was adding to the pressures already faced by younger royals such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Sussexes.

She added: “There was no social media in my day, so it probably has made it more difficult.”



Boris savaged by Speaker for PMQs blunder moments after brutal underwear jibe at Starmer

Boris Johnson was told to address all his remarks to the Speaker’s chair instead of speaking as if to an audience during Prime Minister’s Questions. Sir Lindsay Hoyle told off the Prime Minister as he intervened moments after Mr Johnson hit out at Labour Party leader Keir Starmer over his coronavirus stance. Sir Lindsay said: “Can I just say to the Prime Minister as well, we are going to work through the chair.

“We know the audience isn’t that way, it’s this way.”

The rebuke from the Speaker came seconds after Mr Johnson accused Sir Keir of having “more briefs than Calvin Klein” because of his dithering stance throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister said: “What he has to decide is whether he wants to back that programme or not.

“Because one day he says it’s safe to go back to school, the next day he’s taking the line of the unions.

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“One day they are supporting our economic programme, the next day they are saying our stamp duty cut is unacceptable.

“One day they say the accept the result of the Brexit referendum, the next day they are telling their troops to do the exact opposite.

“He needs to make up his mind which brief he’s going to take today. Because today he’s got more briefs than Calvin Klein.”

Mr Johnson added: “We’re getting on with delivering on our agenda for the country, getting this country through the pandemic and moving forward.”

READ MORE: SNP’s Ian Blackford fuming as Boris destroys devolution plot: ‘You’ll hand power to EU!’

“That isn’t giving people confidence in the system, they would rather the Prime Minister stand up and say there are problems and this is what I’m going to do about them.

“Not this rhetoric about stunning success when it’s not true.”

Following the exchange, Mr Johnson appeared to accept for the first time that there would be an official inquiry.

Thee Prime Minister says:” I do not believe that now, in the middle of combatting a pandemic is the right moment to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry.

“But of course, we will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and we will have an independent inquiry into what happened.”



SNP jibe sparks laughter in House of Commons as Tory takes swipe at Scottish 'separatists'

The SNP were forced to suffer a slight in Parliament as a Tory MP took the opportunity to make a dig at the Scottish party. The Commons were meeting to take questions on the progress Home Secretary Priti Patel has made on introducing a new points-based immigration system. Home Office minister Kevin Foster threw a jibe at the Opposition benches as he highlighted their failure to stop the bill.

He told the House: “We are ending free movement, and are introducing a new firmer, fairer, skills-led, global immigration system.

“Last month our immigration bill passed through this House un-amended despite the best efforts of the Labour Party and the separatist benches.”

After his targeted comment, laughter could be heard from the Commons benches, but it was unclear who exactly.

The SNP have been gunning for a second independence referendum since they secured a victory in the December 2019 general election.

READ MORE: ‘I’m fed up!’ Furious Ian Blackford explodes at Tory jeering

The House of Commons approved the general principles of the new immigration law by 351 votes to 252 in May, and it is now going on to receive further scrutiny.

The bill repeals EU freedom of movement and introduces the new framework for who can come to live in the UK.

It also paves the way to introduce a new points-based system.

The Home Secretary claims the Government’s plans will lead to a “high skill” economy.

More to follow…



When will indoor sports reopen? Sports boss issues warning in cutting Boris Johnson jibe

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the single biggest lifting of lockdown restrictions on June 23, revealing that pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdresser can reopen from July 4. But there was one glaring omission from the latest lifting of the rules, leaving sporting bodies “devastated” as they struggle to stay afloat.

The latest lockdown update saw the Prime Minister announced a raft of businesses will be able to open from July 4 in the biggest step towards normality since the lockdown began at the end of March.

Pubs, restaurants and bars will all be able to open their doors again, along with hotels, campsites and holiday parks.

People will be allowed to stay overnight under the new restrictions, and the 2-metre social distancing rule has been quashed to what is being known as “1-metre plus”.

Even hairdressers can reopen under the new rules, provide salons are ‘covid-secure.’

But the Government failed to include indoor activities in the latest relaxation of restrictions, which badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy called “a kick in the teeth”.

While outdoor gyms will reopen and personal trainers can go back to their clients, a raft of sporting businesses are still on tenterhooks waiting for their time to open their doors once again.

Swimming pools, gyms and training centres have been closed since the lockdown started on March 23.

But while some elite athletes have gone back to training, amid the return of live football amongst other sports, all indoor sporting centres must still remain closed.

In an open letter, Mr Christy accused the Government of going back on their word after his organisation worked with officials to help prepare for the reopening of indoor sports facilities.

He wrote: “The reopening of indoor sports facilities from July 4 has been on the government’s roadmap for several weeks now.

“Yet the government has seemingly caved in to pressure to allow pubs and restaurants to open while keeping the doors locked on the millions of people who want to play indoor sport, use a gym or a pool.

“Throughout the period of drafting the return to play guidance with government there has been no hint whatsoever that this announcement was even a possibility.

“The decision is not just a sport matter but risks the nation lurching from one health crisis to another.”

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When will indoor sports reopen?

Dozens of other countries have already reopened gyms and indoor sports centres.

In Hong Kong, perspex screens have been installed between treadmills, and in Switzerland many gyms have adapted facilities and limited numbers of people in the buildings at one time.

In the UK, they remain closed for now – but there is a glimmer of hope for those hoping to go back to their favourite work out spaces.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said on Twitter the Government hoped to “reopen gyms & leisure facilities in mid-July”.

Huw Edwards, the chief executive of not-for-profit association ukactive, says gyms and sports facilities should play a key role in Britain’s long-term post-civid health strategy.

He warned up to 2,800 centres and 100,000 jobs could be lost if a date for reopening is not given soon.

The sports boss said: “Crucially, these are facilities that communities the length of the country depend upon, from the youngest to the oldest.

“Their potential loss could be catastrophic for local communities and catastrophic in the fight against Covid-19.”

His plan for gyms and leisure centres outlines strict rules for sport centres to abide by should they be able to reopen, including:

  • No towels to be brought on to the gym floor
  • At least two metres between all available gym equipment and studio space
  • Only one parent per child in a swimming pool
  • Social distancing throughout, including in changing rooms
  • All touch points, such as weights or other equipment, to be cleaned down after use
  • No more than one gym user or swimmer for every three square metres of space

Sport England chair Nick Bitel says the body is working closely with the government and sporting bodies to try to open up indoor sports as soon as possible.

“The sport and physical activity sector has been working incredibly hard preparing to reopen leisure, fitness and sports centres, with painstaking measures in place to ensure venues meet public health guidelines,” he said.

“We understand that difficult choices need to be made as the country exits lockdown.

“While it is disappointing for the sector that no specific date has been given for the reopening of facilities today, we will continue to work closely with government to ensure this happens as soon as possible, ideally within the coming weeks, an ambition we know is shared by government.”