Boris Johnson prompts anger in his constituency over burqa comments: 'A disgraceful individual'

Some voters say he isn't fit to represent a multicultural area, but local Tommy Robinson sympathiser says he is 'quirky', unafraid to speak his mind, and right

Adam Lusher
,Lisa Collins@lisarayecollins
Thursday 09 August 2018 14:05
'Disgraceful individual from a moral and social standpoint': Boris Johnson faces anger in his own constituency

Cheer up Boris.

Your party chairman may have ordered you to apologise for your comments about the burqa.

Your fellow Tories may be calling for the party whip to be withdrawn and damning your comments as “gratuitously offensive”.

But back in your constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Wednesday afternoon, the sun was still shining and the news was good: Boris Johnson still has the “I’m not an Islamophobe” vote.

“He’s a legend,” said Scott Woodley, 30, a window cleaner, as he emerged from a local pub. “He’s right. We should ban the burqa.

“You can’t wear a bikini in a Muslim country, so why should they be able to wear burqas in this country?

France has done it. Denmark has done it. Why shouldn’t we ban the burqa?”

And when it was pointed out that Boris wasn’t demanding a ban on the burqa, just comparing women who wore it to letterboxes and robbers, the ex-foreign secretary was still right.

“It’s the fact that the terrorists are using it [the burqa] to smuggle themselves out of the country after they have blown people up,” said Mr Woodley. “How many terrorists have smuggled themselves out of the country wearing a burqa?

“Boris Johnson is right. And Tommy Robinson. He’s right as well. He might say things in the wrong way, but he’s right.

“This is our country. We should be able to live by our rules.”

“I’m not racist,” insisted Mr Woodley. “I’m not an Islamophobe. I’m a terrorist-phobe.

“I’ve got no problem with people coming to this country who want to contribute to it. I live next to a Muslim family, and they are the nicest people I have ever met. They bring over food to my mum and dad.

“But some of them … They come over here, they scrounge off benefits while I work my nuts off and then they want to blow our people up.

“There’s a geezer that our Royal Navy saved from Libya that went and blew 22 people up in a [Manchester] concert arena. It’s not right.”

(Salman Abedi, a British citizen, was rescued from the civil war in Libya by the Royal Navy, the Daily Mail reported last week.)

But when we asked whether he liked Mr Johnson’s personality, Mr Woodley’s smile returned.

“Yeah,” he said, “Cos he’s quirky, and not afraid to say what he thinks.

“Our country needs more people like Boris Johnson. I will be voting for him, 100 per cent. Because he’s right.”

This, it has to be said, did not seem the unanimous view in Uxbridge. Nor did it appear the majority opinion. Nor even the standpoint of a sizeable minority.

Moving a few yards down the high street, we found Roger Vipond, 72, ready to offer a slightly different view of the local MP: “He’s a four-letter word. Beginning with C.”

“I have spoken with him face-to-face,” said the retired engineer. “He is a very amiable, very humorous, very distinguished classicist, and a disgraceful individual from a moral and social standpoint.

“Because of his treatment of women, because of his treatment of countries that are not his own, because … the list is too long.

“He seems driven to offend and outrage as many individuals and as many groups as possible, and his comments about the burqa are just the latest example.”

Kevin Voisey, 54, a design and technology teacher, also met Mr Johnson.

“I wasn’t impressed at all,” he said. “He’s not someone I would want to trust with anything, not even sweeping the streets. He just wouldn’t do it.”

So no, he wouldn’t be voting to help maintain Mr Johnson’s relatively slender 5,034 majority.

“Before the election, he promised more cycle lanes. We have never seen anything.

“On the third runway at Heathrow, he promised to stand in front of the diggers. Then when it came to the crunch vote he was nowhere to be seen.

“He is full of false promises.”

You could argue that Mr Voisey was being a little harsh.

After all, having been sacked from the Conservative front bench in 2004, Mr Johnson did assure Daily Telegraph readers: “There are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters".

And surely, over 14 gaffe-filled years, he has more than delivered on that hint of a promise – from linking the people of modern Papua New Guinea to “orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing” in 2006, to trying to recite a colonial-era poem on a visit to Burma last year.

As foreign secretary he helped Iran portray an innocent British citizen as a spy by erroneously saying jailed mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalists, and said the Libyan city of Sirte would make a great holiday resort once they “cleared the dead bodies away”.

Some might think he has delivered so many disasters it is now hard to remember that then Conservative leader Michael Howard sacked him in 2004 over allegations about an affair that Boris had initially denied as “an inverted pyramid of piffle”.

But still Mr Voisey was banging on about Mr Johnson’s failure to deliver.

“He is definitely just working for himself,” he said. “It’s probably the rich looking after the rich. He seems to feel entitled. He’s out to get headlines for himself all the time.”

Theresa May piles on pressure for Boris Johnson to apologise for burka comments

And as for the latest headlines…

“It was crass,” said Debbie Clayton, 54, a fire health and safety officer. “He should resign right now. The time has come for Boris to no longer represent a borough that is so multicultural.”

Liz, a primary school teacher who asked for her surname not to be published, seemed to agree.

There were a lot of Muslims at her primary school, she said. A few of them wore burqas. Some of them also helped out at the school.

“They are very nice,” said Liz. “Very co-operative, supportive parents.”

When Mr Johnson says such burqa-wearing women look like letterboxes or robbers, she added, “he is an idiot, or he has an ulterior motive – and he is obviously not an idiot, is he?

“He’s trying for more power.”

Mr Johnson, she suggested, was still hoping to be prime minister.

But would his latest comments really prove a gaffe too far?

In one way or another, they all conceded that his buffoonish Boris charm had helped him wriggle out of plenty of previous scrapes.

“For all of his other goings on,” said Mr Vipond, “He’s still the smiling face with the big shock of blond hair.”

Johnson called “Teflon” Tony Blair “a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet.

At the time, everyone thought this was a criticism.

Listening to the constituents in Uxbridge, however, Mr Johnson might in fact have been in awe of Blair’s skills.

“Pot, kettle,” said Mr Vipond in response to Boris’s verdict on Blair.

But then he paused.

“He makes Tony Blair look good. How bad is that?”

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