Boris Johnson Must Apologise 'Unreservedly' For Burka Comments, Says Keir Starmer

The Labour leader has written to the prime minister.
Matthew Horwood via Getty Images

Keir Starmer has demanded Boris Johnson apologise “unreservedly” for “offensive and discriminatory comments” he made about Muslim women.

The Labour leader said Johnson must show a “zero-tolerance” approach towards discrimination.

HuffPost UK understands Starmer has written to the prime minister to set out his concerns.

“We have seen a sharp rise in violent and non-violent Islamophobic attacks. As political leaders we must be utterly committed to eradicating Islamophobia both in society and in our parties,” Starmer said.

Last month an independent review into alleged Islamophobia and discrimination found “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem” in the Conservative Party.

It also said Johnson’s comments that Muslim women who wear the burka looked like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”, made in a 2018 column for The Daily Telegraph, gave the impression the party was “insensitive to Muslim communities”.

In a pointed message to Johnson, the review led by professor Swaran Singh said the leadership of the Conservative Party “ought to set a good example for appropriate behaviours and language”.

Johnson said he was “sorry for any offence taken” and told Singh’s investigation: “Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am prime minister, I would not.”

But Starmer said the prime minister’s apology did not go far enough.

“Although you have apologised for ‘offence taken’ by these comments, you have failed to apologise for the comments themselves,” the Labour leader said.

“This form of words falls woefully short as it puts the onus on those hurt by racism rather than those who make such remarks.”

He told Johnson: “Take this opportunity to demonstrate a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination by apologising publicly and unreservedly for your comments and for the offence that you have caused.”

The Singh report, published on May 25, called on the Tories to introduce sweeping changes to its complaints process, publishing an action plan within six weeks to set out how it will respond, followed by a six-month progress report and a one-year review carried out by an appropriate body.

Within six weeks, the party was told it should review its social media rules and within six months develop training on “acceptable” behaviour online.

Within a year, the report said the party should produce and implement a single, mandatory code of conduct across the entire membership in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Conservative Party chair Amanda Milling accepted the recommendations of the report and apologised “to anyone who has been hurt by discriminatory behaviour of others or failed by our system”

Starmer has also asked Johnson to confirm when the party’s plan to implement the recommendations of the report will be published.


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