It’s day four of the Boris and the burka row over the former foreign secretary’s decision to compare women wearing full face veils to a ‘letterboxes’ in a Telegraph column. And it doesn’t look as though things will die down any time soon.
The Conservatives are planning to launch a party probe into Johnson over his comments. Spearheaded by party chairman Brandon Lewis, complaints against the Tory MP will be referred to an internal disciplinary panel. A Conservative Party spokesman said: ‘The code of conduct process is strictly confidential’.
To say this will go down badly with Johnson’s supporters is an understatement. Given that the whole point of Johnson’s article was a liberal one in line with government policy – i.e. why there shouldn’t be a burka ban – there is a feeling the response has been blown out of proportion. What will particularly annoy them is that this was leaked to George Osborne’s Standard – a paper with an editorial line this is very anti-Boris:
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) August 9, 2018
So, what next? A formal decision is expected this afternoon – and if it does get the green light a lawyer could head it. The terms of the investigation are not yet known – the Met Police’s Cressida Dick has this morning said that Johnson’s comments do not meet the bar required for it to be considered a hate crime. If this probe goes ahead, there will be questions as to whether figures like Ken Clarke should also be belatedly investigated for their comments such as likening the burka to a bag.
A Sky Data poll today found that 60pc of Brits say it is not racist to compare Muslim women wearing burkas to bank robbers and letter boxes, with 33pc thinking it is. Voters are close to split on whether Johnson should apologise – 48pc think he should not. If this investigation goes ahead, expect a backlash from Johnson’s supporters.