Boris Johnson making anti-Muslim comments in 'yet another bid' for Tory leadership, says Baroness Warsi

Ex-Foreign Secretary of exploiting the 'Ukipification' of the Conservative party - to win the votes of new right-wing members


Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 07 August 2018 13:40 BST
Baroness Warsi on Boris Johnson's comments about Muslim women's dress

Boris Johnson is deliberately making anti-Muslim comments as part of “yet another leadership bid”, a former Tory party chairwoman has alleged.

Baroness Warsi accused the former Foreign Secretary of exploiting what she called the “Ukipification” of her own party, to win the votes of new right-wing members.

The criticism came as she protested that Theresa May had “washed her hands” of the problem of Islamophobia in the Tory party – demanding an independent inquiry.

No 10 has so far refused to criticise Mr Johnson for his newspaper article suggesting women wearing niqabs resemble “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”.

“Boris knew what he was doing when he made these comments,” Baroness Warsi said. “He would know the impact and the effect it would have.”

The peer highlighted an influx of Tory members “from a more extreme space”, warning: “We have seen, sadly, a Ukipification of the Conservative party.”

And she added: “Boris is making yet another leadership bid and he will say and do whatever needs to be said and done to make that as successful as he can.

“I sincerely hope that he doesn’t continue to use Muslim women as a convenient political football to try to increase his poll ratings and to try to increase his profile and his presence on these issues that he knows will be heard.”

Asked if the Conservative party would take any action against Mr Johnson, Baroness Warsi told Sky News: “I hope he will be disciplined, but I’m not holding my breath.”

She referred to the tolerance shown to backbencher Bob Blackman, who appeared to endorse far-right leader Tommy Robinson, and Zac Goldsmith, criticised for his London mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan.

“Sadly, it appears that, in my party, when parliamentarians make such comments it doesn’t diminish their political status – it actually increases their political success,” Baroness Warsi said.

As the peer spoke out, Brandon Lewis, her successor as party chairman, broke his silence on the controversy, tweeting that he had “asked Boris Johnson to apologise”.

Earlier, Tell MAMA – an organisation which records anti-Muslim hate – criticised the prime minister for refusing to intervene in the growing controversy.

It also protested that “absolutely nothing” had happened since Mr Lewis had vowed to act on Islamophobia at a meeting two months ago.

Mr Johnson’s article, for The Daily Telegraph, came after Denmark imposed fines for wearing the religious headgear in the streets, which he described as “oppressive”.

He has drawn widespread condemnation, after going on to say it was “absolutely ridiculous” that people should "choose to go around looking like letter boxes”

Baroness Warsi protested that the Tory party had said nothing about what action was being taken against Islamophobes in its ranks, other than talk of “non-compulsory diversity training” – “whatever that might be”.

And on Ms May's silence, she said: “The fact she hasn’t come out and condemned Boris Johnson shows a lack of leadership. This has to come from the top.”

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