Boris Johnson has launched a defence of bullfighting, claiming Spain’s partial ban on the sport is “political correctness gone mad”.
The Foreign Secretary reportedly angered many Spanish guests who were opposed to the sport when he made the comments at a dinner to celebrate Anglo-Spanish relations in Bath, according to The Mirror.
One attendee said: “He antagonised every Spaniard there. They fumed for the rest of the dinner. Bullfighting is the subject of lively debate. Some parts of Spain have banned it.
“The Spanish don’t like people painting a caricature of their country as bullfighting, flamenco and paella.”
One Spanish guest is reported to have told a British MP: “He’s a clown. He’s not fit to represent your country.”
The Foreign Office said: “The Foreign Secretary was expressing a personal view that he respects this Spanish tradition. However, he does not personally support bullfighting and he is proud the UK upholds the highest in animal welfare standards, including the ban on bullfighting in the UK.”
The centuries-old tradition has divided 21st-century Spain with the anti-bullfighting lobby coming up against the country’s more conservative factions.
In 2013 the conservative Partido Popular (PP) government declared the sport a cultural asset, allowing it access to public funds.
But in July this year the Balearic Islands, the Spanish province which includes Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza, voted to introduce strict laws which would essentially make it impossible to perform bullfights.
Mr Johnson’s gaffe comes days after he was accused of making inaccurate statements about a British citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is currently under arrest in Iran, which could see her jail term doubled.
But Mr Johnson has refused to apologise, telling Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, in the Commons: “It is simply untrue for her to say, as she has said today, that there is any connection whatever between my remarks last week and the legal proceedings under way against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Tehran today.”
After almost an hour of questioning he said: “I’m sorry if any words of mine have been taken out of context and misconstrued to cause anxiety to Nazanin’s family.”
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