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Coffee House Steerpike

Letterbox-gate: who said it first – Boris or the Guardian?

10 August 2018

10:59 AM

10 August 2018

10:59 AM

In a strongly worded editorial on Tuesday, the Guardian newspaper did not hide its contempt for what it called Boris Johnson’s ‘tasteless newspaper column joke’ which compared women in burqas to letterboxes. ‘Baroness Warsi was absolutely correct to call Mr Johnson out on this on Tuesday when she called the remarks “dog-whistle Islamophobia”‘, it thundered.

All of this somewhat surprised Mr Steerpike. Not because of the sanctimony, but because, as one eagle-eye reader got in touch to point out, the paper had already beaten Boris to the joke.

In 2013, it published a column by Remona Aly entitled ‘Nine uses for a burqa … that don’t involve bashing them.’ In it, the author suggests several alternative uses for the face-covering.


‘But the next time you spot an unidentifiable woman who wants to pop out in pyjamas to buy milk by stealth, do not be alarmed: keep calm, think of Nigella Lawson and follow our top tips on how you could use a burqa too.’

Examples included using it as a ‘getaway costume’ and, remarkably:

‘7. Relaunch the postbox

Since the burqa eye-opening has been called a letterbox slit, and with the privatisation of the Royal Mail, seize the moment to set up an independent mobile mail service, AKA The Burqa Post.’

No word on the current Grauniad line on proposals for a ‘Burqa Post’…


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