A Tory backbencher has joined calls for Boris Johnson to apologise after he joked about “dead bodies” in Libya putting off investors in the wake of its civil war.
The foreign secretary made the comments at a Conservative conference fringe meeting, prompting a swathe of calls for him to resign or be sacked.
On Wednesday Johnson’s colleague, Sarah Wollaston, said she agreed with those who said he should consider his position, including fellow Tory backbenchers Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry.
She told the BBC’s Today programme: “I think these remarks were crass, poorly judged and grossly insensitive, and these are being made by the person who is representing us on the world stage. It’s very disappointing.
“I think if you imagine a foreign secretary from abroad making similar comments following a national disaster in this country, you can see how that may be interpreted by us.”
Johnson was recorded telling delegates at the event on Tuesday evening that British businesses wanted to invest in Libya.
“They have a got brilliant vision to turn Sirte, with the help of the municipality of Sirte, into the next Dubai. The only thing they’ve got to do is clear the dead bodies,” he said.
Johnson later took to Twitter to claim he had in fact been trying to highlight the issue of bodies of dead Daesh fighters being “booby-trapped” with explosives in the North African city.
Wollaston added: “This is a meeting that he would have know was being filmed. He needs to be much more sensitive of how he comes across.”
When asked if he should apologise, the Totnes MP said: “Of course he should unequivocally apologise and not try to justify those kind of remarks and the way it was said. He should consider his position.”
Wollaston appeared on the programme ahead of cabinet office minister Damian Green, who was in the middle of a media round planned to plug Theresa May’s keynote speech to conference on Wednesday morning.
Instead, the interviews were dominated by talk of Johnson’s remarks, but Green refused to be drawn on calls for him to be sacked or apologise, telling broadcasters: “We must all be careful with our use of langauge.”
He said the foreign secretary, who recently visited Libya, was “an expert” on the country.
“It is an extremely terrible situation there,” he added.
“But we all need to learn the lesson of being sensitive at all times.”
Fellow cabinet minister Amber Rudd and Jeremy Hunt said Johnson’s comments were “a distraction” and “very unfortunate...I don’t want to defend that”, respectively, but did not say he should be sacked.