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Boris Johnson burka comments border on 'hate speech'

A veteran Tory MP says Boris Johnson's controversial comments on burkas are "bordering on hate speech".

North Thanet Conservative Sir Roger Gale has taken a swipe at the former Foreign Secretary, who has claimed women in burkas look like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers".

He made the remarks in a column for the Telegraph newspaper and is now being investigated by his own party.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
"It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes. If a constituent came to my MPs surgery with her face obscured I should feel fully entitled to ask her to remove it. If a female student turned up at a school or university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto..." - Boris Johnson in his column

Sir Roger, an MP for 35 years, says Mr Johnson has caused "gratuitous offence to a significant ethnic minority".

He said: "It is entirely accepted that for security purposes, at immigration checkpoints at our ports and airports, for example, and in a court of law or for constabulary identification, it has to be right that people should be unveiled.

"It is also perfectly reasonable to debate whether or not the wearing of the burka is oppressive or a mark of true faith as it must be to discuss the fact that nuns wear habits, that buddhist monks wear saffron robes, that orthodox Jews wear hats and that sikhs wear turbans. It is even, surely, permissible in a free society to discuss whether Scotsmen should wear kilts or transgender males should wear female attire in public.

"What is out of order, and the reason for much Parliamentary if not public condemnation, is the use, by a senior politician that has, at some times, expressed ambitions to lead a party, of populist language bordering on hate-speech that is either deliberately or carelessly designed to foment discord or, at best, to shock."

Sir Roger Gale
Sir Roger Gale

Mr Johnson is said to harbour ambitions of one day becoming Prime Minister, but Sir Roger says his recent actions show he is not fit to lead the party.

"Mr Johnson may be the darling of the reactionary wing of the Conservative Party, he may have a handful of Neandethal acolytes within the House of Commons, and he will no doubt make a lot of noise in a few weeks time during the conference season, but he is, quite simply, not now, or ever, a leader that I would wish to follow or to serve under.

"There are other and better men and women who, when the time comes, will be truly worthy of support."

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