Jess Phillips says Boris Johnson too embarrassed by 'letterboxes' comment to look her in the eye

'He shuffles uncomfortably and looks at the ground, he looks like a chastened child whenever I see him'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 13 June 2019 14:42
Comments
Who could replace Theresa May as Tory leader?

A Labour MP says Boris Johnson is too embarrassed by his notorious description of Muslim women as “letterboxes” to look her in the eye.

Jess Phillips described the clear Tory leadership favourite as a “chastened child whenever I see him” who “shuffles uncomfortably and looks at the ground”.

She also warned that Muslim women were “frightened for their country” by the growing likelihood that Mr Johnson will succeed Theresa May in Downing Street.

“He can't even take me looking at him in the eye. He's a bullies’ patsy with no guts,” Mr Phillips said, on her chance encounters in the Commons corridors.

The criticism comes after the jeering, at his campaign launch, of a journalist who said Mr Johnson’s comments about Muslim women had made fellow Tories question if he was “fit to be prime minister”.

Supporters of the former foreign secretary turned on a reporter, who asked if he had brought “shame on your party”, the heckling, coming from a group which included Conservative MPs.

In the column last year, Mr Johnson said wearing the burka was “looking like a bank robber”, adding: “It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letterboxes.”

Ms Phillips, an MP in Birmingham, tweeted: “I pass Boris Johnson in the corridors a lot. He shuffles uncomfortably and looks at the ground.

“On one occasion before the Tory conference in Birmingham, I said to him that I hope the Muslim women in my city show him how welcome he is there. Again he shuffled uncomfortably,” she claimed.

"He does not defend his position, he looks like a chastened child whenever I see him. He's being told to say these things by a racist machine.”

The column triggered calls for Mr Johnson to apologise from the prime minister, Brandon Lewis, the Tory chairman and Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader.

But a panel set up by the party decided he had been “respectful and tolerant” and was entitled to use “satire” in his writing.

At his campaign launch, Mr Johnson was uncomfortable when quizzed on the controversy, saying he was sorry for any offence caused – but also that the public was sick of politicians “muffling and veiling our language”.

Ms Phillips added: “I do not fear him as an opponent to be honest, I pity him, because he doesn't passionately believe in anything and his authenticity rubs off with even the slightest brushing. He's a hollow icon who cannot even defend his words.”

And she said: “If you think I'm being harsh on BJ you don't have any Muslim women friends or family because mine have all been messaging me sadly this morning frightened for their country.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in