Wednesday 19 June 2019

Johnson may face party probe over 'bank robber' burka jibes

Boris Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
Boris Johnson. Photo: Getty Images

Anna Mikhailova

Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson could face a formal investigation over his comments about Muslim women wearing burkas, a former Cabinet minister has suggested.

Eric Pickles, a former local government secretary, said the Conservative Party could take disciplinary action if a formal complaint is made.

"The party has various procedures," he said. "If someone has made an official complaint, then (an independent) panel would listen to the complaint."

Mr Pickles said the chance of Mr Johnson being kicked out of the party as a result is "pretty much inconceivable. Though you never know how these things develop".

Tory peer Mohamed Sheikh has called for UK Prime Minister Theresa May to suspend Mr Johnson. The Conservative Muslim Forum founder said: "Take the whip from him."

Mr Johnson has rejected calls to apologise for his comments about Muslim women wearing burkas as Mrs May said they had "offended people".

Mr Johnson accused his critics of mounting "ridiculous" attacks and attempting to "shut down" legitimate debate.

The row came after Mr Johnson said in an article for 'The Daily Telegraph' that women who wear face veils look like "bank robbers" and "letter boxes", leading to accusations that he was fuelling Islamaphobia.

He argued that while Muslim women should be free to wear niqabs and burkas if they choose to do so, the practice is "oppressive" and has no "scriptural authority" in the Koran.

Mr Pickles said Mr Johnson's comments were "misspoken" and "crass", and that "an apology would go a long way". "He's not a member of the public, a man on the street or a chap in the pub," Mr Pickles said. "Politicians have to be clever in the language they use."

Mrs May has said politicians have to be "very careful" about the language they use and told him to apologise. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright also criticised Mr Johnson's description of burkas as "oppressive". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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