After London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson took out his dog whistle and said Muslim women wearing burkas “look like letter boxes” and compared them to “bank robbers”, the condemnation was immediate, only not from where it should have come - the top of his own party. Theresa May was initially silent, as was party chairman Brandon “barrow boy” Lewis. But that soon changed.
As the BBC then reported, “Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis has said he agreed with Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt that there had been degree of offence in Mr Johnson's comments, and called on the former London mayor to apologise … Theresa May later backed calls for Mr Johnson to apologise, saying the remarks had ‘clearly caused offence’”. So what did brave Bozza do?
He refused to apologise, with a “source close to him”, sounding very much like it was him, telling “We must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues … We have to call it out. If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists”. This was weapons grade bullshit.
Let’s take that apart nice and slowly. One, no-one is shutting down debate. Two, if it’s a “difficult issue”, it ill behoves those discussing it to use such inflammatory language. Three, Bozza was not, repeat was not, repeat WAS NOT “speaking up for liberal values”. What he was speaking up for was the encouragement of intolerance. And Four, the “reactionaries and extremists” include his audience, and indeed Himself Personally Now.
If Bozza wants to speak in those terms, he is welcome to do so - only not from the position of being an elected representative given the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons. Disobeying his own party leader and chairman should leave Theresa May and Brandon Lewis with one option, and one which has been used before - they should see to it that the whip is removed from Bozza, and he is deselected as a future party candidate.
The notable precedent for this was the removal of the Tory whip and deselection of one Howard Flight prior to the 2005 General Election at the behest of then party leader Michael Howard. Flight’s constituency association was threatened with what was known as the “Slough Treatment”, so named after the measures used to ensure the deselection of the appalling Adrian Hilton, should they not go along with the leader’s wishes.
Such decisive action would show that the Tories are now serious about dealing with Islamophobia within their ranks. After all, as a Guardian editorial has reminded us, “Mr Johnson was not interested in a discussion about the burqa. He is interested in himself … Mr Johnson craves attention. He also still craves the Conservative leadership, a job for which he is peculiarly ill-suited but which too many members of his party think he would do well … Mr Johnson’s remarks therefore say something very disturbing about both him and the Tory party”. Theresa May could dispel that disturbing thought very rapidly.
So let’s see some decisive action. Bozza says what he says because he believes he can get away with it, and that it will propel him towards 10 Downing Street. The Tories, in deselecting the SOB, can show the world that no-one in their party is untouchable.
It’s time to send this clown back to the world of quack punditry - where he belongs.
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