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Boris Johnson challenged over ‘f*** business’ remarks at Conservative leadership hustings

TV stations apologise for language used by party member during live broadcast

Peter Stubley
Saturday 22 June 2019 16:09 BST
Conservative leadership hustings: Boris Johnson challenged over f**k business comments

Boris Johnson has dismissed questions about his “f*** business” comment in relation to the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, describing it as a “stray remark to the Belgian ambassador”.

The MP, who is favourite to win the leadership contest and become the next prime minister, was challenged over the incident at the Conservative party hustings in Birmingham.

A Tory member, identified only as Alec, asked Mr Johnson: “In June last year during a Foreign Office reception you were asked about corporate concerns you replied ‘f*** business’. Is your attitude towards British jobs still as cavalier and as careless as it was then?”

Sky News was forced to briefly pause its live broadcast to apologise for the “bad language” used by the Tory member in asking his question.

Mr Johnson replied: “I bitterly resent the way one stray remark to the Belgian ambassador, who was making the case that the UK would not be able to leave the European Union, I don’t think that should be allowed to cloud what is I think pretty extraordinary record for a politician of sticking up for business at every conceivable opportunity.”

He went on to claim that he “stuck up for the bankers” after the 2007 financial crash and promoted UK business at home and abroad.

Pressed again about his expletive-laden comment by host Iain Dale, he said: “I was referring to very powerful lobby groups who wanted to have a particular type of exit from the European Union, or non-exit, that would not achieve the result we want.

“I am the most passionately pro-business Conservative politician you would hope to meet.”

His comment about business had received criticism from MPs including former leadership rival Matt Hancock, who declared: “To the people who say ‘f*** business’, I say f*** f*** business.”

However, after withdrawing from the race, Mr Hancock decided to back the frontrunner and said: “Boris and I have both used language our mothers might disapprove of in this debate. But I have been reassured, again emphatically, that a Boris administration will be pro-business, pro-enterprise, supportive of the aspirational and the international.”

Earlier in the hustings Mr Johnson repeatedly refused to answer questions about police being called to reports of a domestic row at his flat. He said: “I don’t think they want to hear about that kind of thing.”

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