Conservative party chairman James Cleverly has defended Boris Johnson’s “humbug” comments in the House of Commons.
During a contentious debate in parliament on Wednesday evening, Labour MP Paula Sherriff asked the prime minister to tone down his language and stop using words like “surrender” and “betrayal”, because they contributed to death threats and abuse she and her colleagues receive daily.
“I have never heard such humbug in all my life,” the PM said.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme on Thursday, Cleverly said the prime minister’s “humbug” comment was simply a response to “specific accusations made in that exchange which were inaccurate”.
Cleverly also underlined the PM’s warning that the anger on display Wednesday evening would not subside until Brexit is achieved. “The frustration which is distilled in the House of Commons but exists right across the country is not going to be resolved until this issue is resolved,” he said.
“I can’t see how this is going to calm down until the big issue which has caused such division has been resolved. That’s why we are so keen to get this done quickly and to leave by the 31st.”
Johnson has been widely condemned for rebuking Sherriff, with members of his own party even criticising his language.
Former secretary of state for the Department of Work and Pensions, MP Amber Rudd appeared on ITV on Wednesday evening, where she told Robert Peston that “this whole approach of pitting parliament against the people is dangerous and dishonest.”
Johnson has also been criticised for saying during the debate that “the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox and indeed the best way to bring this country together would be, I think, to get Brexit done.”
The Labour MP was murdered by a far-right extremist in June 2016
Her husband, Brendan Cox, said following the debate that he “felt a bit sick at Jo’s name being used in this way.”
In a post on Twitter he wrote: “The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination.
“But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common.”