CONSERVATIVE MP and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson will be investigated for a possible breach of the party’s code of conduct after making comments about Muslim women who wear burqas, a party source said today (9).
A number of complaints had been received and would be considered by an independent panel, the source added.
A spokesman for the party declined to confirm the investigation. “The code of conduct process is strictly confidential,” he said in a statement.
Johnson wrote in The Daily Telegraph this week that Denmark was wrong to ban the burqa, which conceals the face with a mesh or is worn in conjunction with the niqab – a face veil that leaves only the eyes exposed.
But Johnson, who resigned last month over the government’s Brexit plans, also said the burqa was “oppressive, ridiculous and made women look like letter boxes and bank robbers”, prompting an outcry from other politicians and British Muslim groups.
Prime minister Theresa May backed calls on Tuesday (7) for Johnson to apologise for the disparaging comments, while he branded his critics “ridiculous”.
His remarks “have clearly caused offence”, the prime minister said and agreed with the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, who had asked Johnson to apologise.
“I do think that we all have to be very careful about the language and terms we use. And some of the terms Boris used describing people’s appearance obviously have offended,” May said.
“What’s important is do we believe people should have the right to practise their religion and, in the case of women and the burqa and niqab, to choose how they dress.”
Former colleagues also condemned the London MP’s comments.
Junior foreign minister Alistair Burt told the BBC: “I would never have made such a comment, I think there is a degree of offence in that, absolutely right.”
Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi, a former party chairwoman, accused Johnson of adopting the “dog-whistle” tactics of right-wing firebrand Steve Bannon, US president Donald Trump’s former top aide.
Warsi said Johnson was hoping to attract support from right-wing Conservatives for an eventual leadership bid and called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party.
“It is crass and it must stop, and it must be condemned by the leadership right from the prime minister down.”
But Johnson received support from some quarters, with Conservative MP Nadine Dorries saying he “did not go far enough”.
“Any clothing a woman is forced to wear which hides both her beauty and her bruises should be banned and have no place in our liberal, progressive country,” she said.
The Conservative party’s website says suspension of membership or expulsion from the party are among the ultimate options open to its board on conclusion of a code of conduct investigation.