Boris Johnson was welcomed back to the parliament he tried to shut down as a returning hero by Conservative MPs who loudly applauded his attempts to brazen out his humiliation at the hands of the Supreme Court.
The prime minister brushed aside repeated demands to resign or apologise as he launched an extraordinary attack on the 11 judges who found his suspension of parliament unlawful, dismissing their unanimous ruling.
Mr Johnson’s unrepentant tone was condemned as a “disgrace” by opposition MPs, while the successor to murdered Jo Cox accused him of trying to whip up public hostility against MPs by suggesting they were unpatriotic and traitors.
But he dismissed the charge that he was fuelling death threats as “humbug”, and drew gasps of shock from opposition benches as he claimed that the best way to honour Ms Cox’s memory was to deliver Brexit.
Ms Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, said the PM’s comments made him feel “sick”, insisting that the way to memorialise his wife was “never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common”.
Mr Johnson’s former cabinet colleague Rory Stewart – expelled from the Tories for rebelling over a no-deal Brexit – warned the prime minister was “tiptoeing down a dangerous path, pitting Brexit against Remain, young against old, Scotland against England and people against parliament”.
In furious scenes on the first day of resumed Commons proceedings after the UK’s highest court struck down his illegal prorogation, Mr Johnson issued a challenge to opposition parties to trigger an early election by voting no confidence in him.
The PM said he would make time available for a confidence vote on Thursday, while Downing Street sources even indicated that Tory MPs would vote out their own government to secure a public poll.
But opposition parties shunned the “trap” of an early poll, which they fear would allow Mr Johnson to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.
Mr Johnson repeatedly described the rebel act which requires him to extend Brexit negotiations if he cannot get a deal with Brussels as a “surrender act” or a “capitulation act”.
Labour MP Tracy Brabin, who inherited her Batley and Spen seat from Ms Cox, told him: “All these words are suggesting that because we disagree with him, we are traitors, we are not patriots. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“This may be a strategy to set the people against the establishment. I would like to gently suggest he is the establishment and we are still people… Please, please will he going forward moderate his language so we will all feel secure when we are going about our jobs.”
Describing Mr Johnson as “a dangerous prime minister who thinks he is above the law, but in truth is not fit for the office he holds”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs: “After yesterday’s ruling, he should have done the honourable thing and resigned.
“Yet here he is, forced back to this house to rightfully face scrutiny, without a shred of remorse or humility and no substance whatsoever.”
The Labour leader accused Mr Johnson of making “minimal” efforts to secure a revised withdrawal agreement and called on him to release papers setting out details of any offer he has made to Brussels to keep the Irish border open after Brexit.
But the PM taunted Labour for “running away” from an election under Mr Corbyn’s leadership because it was “not only terrified that he might lose but even more terrified by the remote possibility that he might win”. Labour “dither” was preventing the government from pressing ahead with plans to increase NHS funding and fight knife crime, he claimed.
Claiming that Mr Corbyn had been blocked from going for an election by colleagues including shadow chancellor John McDonnell, he said: “He is being held captive by his colleagues, the electorate are being held captive by this zombie parliament and zombie opposition, and he wants the whole country to be held captive in the EU,” said Mr Johnson.
But Mr Corbyn made clear he would not budge from his position that he will not trigger an election until no-deal Brexit has been definitively ruled out, telling the PM: “If he wants an election, get an extension and let’s have an election.”
Despite the crushing verdict of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, which found that the prorogation order which he advised the Queen to issue was “unlawful, void and of no effect”, Mr Johnson insisted he had followed exactly the same process as previous prime ministers in preparing for a new parliamentary session.
“It is absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say I think the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question at a time of great national controversy,” he said.
His defiance of the court prompted a horrified response from a string of MPs.
Independent Sylvia Hermon told the Commons: “I was shocked that he, as prime minister, should take it upon himself with his arrogance to declare the judgement of the Supreme Court wrong.”
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts called for his impeachment for misleading the public.
And Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson told him: “Even my five-year-old knows that if you do something wrong, you have to say sorry.
“If my son can apologise for kicking a football indoors, surely the prime minister can have the humility to say sorry for misleading the Queen, misleading the country and illegally shutting down democracy.”
Mr Johnson faces a blizzard of opposition efforts in the coming days to block his “do or die” plans to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.
Liberal Democrats have begun talks with other parties on potential measures to force Mr Johnson to request an extension to Article 50 talks as early as next week.
And opposition MPs may again seek to seize control of parliamentary proceedings to ensure that preventing a no deal is “watertight”, to force the release of the legal advice behind the prorogation, or to gain access to documentation setting out his plans for the Irish border.
The government will on Thursday seek to close down parliament again for a short recess to allow the Conservative annual conference to go ahead as planned in Manchester next week.
But the bid is likely to be voted down by opposition MPs, forcing hasty revisions to the agenda for the gathering, where Mr Johnson is currently scheduled to deliver his keynote speech on the same day he will have to face Prime Minister’s Questions at Westminster.