Politics

Anger and tears as the UK Parliament's mood boils over

Key Points
  • Tempers flared beyond normal levels in the U.K. House of Commons on Wednesday.
  • Lawmakers were initially aggrieved after the U.K.'s government refused to say sorry over its prorogation of Parliament.
  • Subsequent comments from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in reference to a murdered MP appeared to fan the flames.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons, London, after judges at the Supreme Court ruled that his advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.
House of Commons - PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images

Frustrations over Brexit blew up into anger and tears in Parliament on Wednesday night as lawmakers first vented fury over the government's refusal to apologize for unlawful actions and then railed at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's language in relation to a murdered MP.

The House of Commons – Britain's lower house of Parliament – resumed activities Wednesday after the U.K. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Conservative government had acted unlawfully to suspend its sitting.

The country's Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who had advised ministers that prorogation would be legal, stood up to reiterate the Conservative Party line that while they would respect the ruling, they did not agree with it.

VIDEO5:3105:31
Johnson faces furious scenes as Parliament returns from prorogation

Opposition MPs (members of parliament) were quickly on the attack — accusing Johnson and his colleagues of eroding democracy and failing to respect the judiciary's role within U.K. society.

Addressing Parliament, Cox quickly dismissed any notion the government would be repentant, instead booming to the House that that opposition MP's were "a disgrace" for refusing to grant Johnson the snap election he craves.

"This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit, it has no moral right to sit on these green benches," added Cox.

That prompted an opposition lawmaker, Labour's Barry Sheerman, to visibly shake and turn crimson as he raged that the U.K.'s attorney general — the crown and government's top lawyer — had "no shame at all."

"To come here with his barrister's bluster to obfuscate the truth - a man like him, a party like this and a leader like this to talk about morals and morality. It's a disgrace."

The poisonous atmosphere continued through the day as lawmakers continuously called on U.K. leader Boris Johnson to resign.

PM raises the temperature

Johnson arrived at the angry scene in the early evening to make a statement and take questions. Any possibility that he would reduce the tension quickly evaporated as he struck an indignant tone, repeatedly accused opposition benches of betrayal and "surrender" to Europe.

The Prime Minister goaded opponents to call an election, waving his arms and shouting: "come on, come on."

Parliament, Johnson said was "refusing to deliver on the priorities of the people" while Labour were "determined to throw out the referendum result, whatever the cost."

"We will not betray the people who sent us here," Johnson roared to huge cheers from his own benches and visible anger opposite.

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Brexit has turned UK into an emerging market environment, analyst says

In the bear pit atmosphere, opposition lawmaker Alison McGovern raised the case of Jo Cox — a Labour MP who was murdered in the days leading up to the 2016 Brexit referendum by a man who attacked her while yelling "Britain first."

Johnson caused gasps and shouting by responding to McGovern that the best way to honor Cox's life was to deliver the Brexit vote.

Then lawmaker Paula Sherriff then said she had received death threats from people who echoed the use of Johnson's language.

The Prime Minister responded: "I have never heard so much humbug in my life."

Speaker John Bercow calls the house to order in the House of Commons, London, after judges at the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.
House of Commons - PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images

The leader of the country's fourth-largest party, the Liberal Democrats visibly fought back tears as she raised a point of order.

"I fear that the public watching today will perhaps take the view that the House does not take sufficiently seriously threats of violence," said Swinson.

On Thursday, the mood was condemned by the Speaker of the House John Bercow who described it as the worst he had ever experienced.

"There was an atmosphere in the chamber worse than any I've known in my 22 years in the house.

"On both sides passions were inflamed; angry words were uttered... the culture was toxic."