Theresa May has refused to be drawn on questions about the Foreign Secretary’s use of racial slurs against black people.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly caused controversy by referring to black children as “picanninies”, and earlier this year suggested Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage gave him an “ancestral dislike” of the British Empire.
At her first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons Ms May was asked by Jeremy Corbyn about how Mr Johnson’s attitude squared with her stated mission to reduce racial inquality.
“The Prime Minister is rightly concerned – and she said this – if you’re black, you’re treated more harshly than if you’re white.
“So before appointing her new Foreign Secretary did she discuss with him his description of black people as picanninies and why he questioned the motive of the US question Obama on his part-Kenyan heritage?”
Mr Johnson was seen to remonstrate with Mr Corbyn from his position on the Government benches.
Ms May would however not be drawn on the issue, giving a tangential answer.
“He refers to the remarks I made, and it is correct that if you’re black you will be treated more harshly in the criminal justice system.
“It’s exactly why as Home Secretary I dealt with the issue of stop and search, I was concerned to make sure that nobody should be stopped and searched on the streets of this country because of the colour of their skin.
“I did that as a Conservative, 13 years of Labour did nothing on it.”
Mr Corbyn replied: “My question was actually about the language used by the Foreign Secretary.”
Mr Johnson earlier this week declined the opportunity to apologise for the comments about Mr Obama during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We can all spend an awfully long time going over lots of stuff that I’ve written over the last 30 years... all of which in my view have been taken out of context, but never mind,” he told reporters.
“I’m afraid that there is such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know, somehow misconstrued that it would take me too long to engage in a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned.
“And I think most people who read these things in their proper context can see exactly what was intended – and indeed I find that virtually everybody I’ve met in this job so far understands that very well, particularly on the international scene.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies