POLITICS
08/08/2018 11:00 BST | Updated 08/08/2018 15:54 BST

Boris Johnson Should Lose Party Whip Over Burka Comment, Says Tory Peer

Former foreign secretary under pressure to apologise.

Boris Johnson should have the Conservative Party whip removed for comparing Muslim women who wear a burka to “letter boxes” and bank robbers, a Tory peer has said.

Lord Sheikh, the president of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said “severe action” should be taken against the former foreign secretary.

“Take the whip from him. Why not? He’s not a super human being, he’s a member of the party,” he told BBC Newsnight. “The party chairman, the prime minister has the right to take the whip … that’s the thing I’d like to see.”

Theresa May has said Johnson’s comments “clearly caused offence” and that he should apologise.

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis has also ordered Johnson to say sorry. “I think he should apologise,” he said this morning.

Penny Mordaunt, the equalities minister, said Lewis was “right” to demand an apology. The pro-Brexit cabinet minister tweted: “Remember only two things are the case: either a woman wants to wear the niqab, or she does not. If you want to support women who do not want to wear the niqab.”

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright joined the chorus of criticism and former Cabinet minister Lord Pickles said that, while it would be a “very big leap” to suggest Mr Johnson could be thrown out of the party, “you never know how these things develop”.

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, went as far to say he would quit the Tory party should Johnson ever become leader. 

“I don’t regard him as a fit and proper person to lead a political party and certainly not the Conservative Party,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

Johnson used his column in the Daily Telegraph on Monday to condemn Denmark for banning the burka, even if it was “oppressive”.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes,” he wrote.

Johnson added: “If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled – like Jack Straw – to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly.

“If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto.”

While Johnson has been criticised by many Tory colleagues, others have defended him.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, an ally of the former foreign secretary, accused Downing Street of having “fallen to its knees in deference to the noises off and failed to take an educated view as to how Britons feel about women being isolated and hidden from view”.

Andrew Bridgen, the Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said he felt “uncomfortable” speaking to a woman in a burka as you can’t see their reaction and it goes against “millions of years of human evolution”.