15/09/2021 18:03 BST

Boris Johnson Joked UK Is Turning Into The 'Saudi Arabia Of Penal Policy'

The prime minister rattled some people with his insensitive joke about Priti Patel's draconian new measures last week.

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Prime minister Boris Johnson, with home secretary Priti Patel in July

Boris Johnson is in hot water after joking Priti Patel was transforming the UK into the “Saudi Arabia of penal policy” last week during a Conservative party fundraiser.

The prime minister has just opted to keep Patel on as the home secretary during his cabinet reshuffle, but many disagree with her strict approach to both criminals and migrants.

Business Insider obtained footage from Friday where Johnson tells donors: “I said last year we’re the Saudi Arabia of wind. Probably the Saudi Arabia of penal policy too, under our wonderful home secretary.”

According to the outlet’s reporter Henry Dyer, No.10 “previously denied he made [a] variation of the remark in January” when approached by a journalist from Politico.

In the short clip, Johnson can be seen welcoming the crowds and saying: “In the immortal words of Priti Patel or Michael Howard or some other hardline home secretary, addressing the inmates of one of our larger prisons: it’s fantastic to see so many of you here.”

The unearthed footage has not gone down well among opposition MPs, as the Middle East nation is notorious for its strict punishment system and even beheads some accused of breaking the law.

Homosexuality is also illegal there and can be punished with the death penalty, chemical castration or whippings.

Aside from Patel’s recent attempts to increase the prison sentences for asylum seekers who arrive in the UK, she is known for encouraging the reintroduction of capital punishment back in 2011. However she did pull back from supporting the death penalty once she joined the cabinet.

The response was not positive

Johnson’s words in front of 300 people at the £500-a-head lunch in Mayfair have stunned the online community.

The Lib Dems’ Alistair Carmichael tweeted: “Hard these days to be shocked by the callous remarks of Boris ‘let the bodies pile high’ Johnson but this latest revelation marks a new low even for him.

“He may admire his pals in the Saudi dictatorship but with this kind of humour the joke is on all of us.”

Labour’s deputy, Angela Rayner, also tweeted: “Saudi Arabia beheads its own citizens, tortures activists exercising their democratic rights and kills homosexuals. This is disgusting. As ever with Boris Johnson behind closed doors the masks slips and we see what he really thinks.”

Downing Street said it continues to take a clear position on any human rights abuses within Saudi Arabia.

The spokesperson for the prime minister refused to “get into the details of meetings like that”.

They added: “You can see our position is very clear and our record is very clear.”