Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE has this morning stepped in to the row over Boris Johnson’s Islamaphobic remarks made in a column in the Daily Torygraph earlier this week.
In common with a growing number of politicians from all political parties, Reed recognised the former Mayor of London’s remarks as being a brazen attempt to attract support from the right of the Conservative Party, ahead of Johnson’s latest likely bid for the leadership.
In a weekly column for the Torygraph, Johnson said that women who wear the burqa resemble letterboxes and bank robbers.
Yesterday, both the Prime Minister (somewhat belatedly) and the chairman of the Conservative Party called for the ex-Foreign Secretary to apologise. Johnson refused.
The next step could be for Johnson to have the party whip removed, which would cause further division in a Tory Party already fractured over the Brexit disaster.
Johnson’s supporters and apologists maintain the line that the newspaper column was “simply Boris being Boris”. They might as well have said that it is an over-privileged Old Etonian racist being an over-privileged Old Etonian racist.
In the past, Johnson has referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and talked about their “watermelon smiles”. On that occasion Johnson escaped any censure from his own political party, which supported him through to being elected as London’s Mayor.
Progress MP Reed, who represents one of the most ethnically diverse constituencies in the country, homed in on the persistent claims that the Conservative Party fails to act on such blatant racism.
“Johnson’s offensive comments about Muslims are a coded appeal for support in a future leadership election to Islamophobic Tory Party members,” Reed wrote on Twitter.
“If he’s not suspended, their party is tolerating racism.”
And a former Tory cabinet member, and one of the Conservatives’ most high-profile Muslims, today said that hate crime had become more likely as a consequence of Johnson’s comments.
Sayeeda Warsi, writing in The Guardian, accuses Johnson of using “dog-whistle” alt-right language. “As a feminist, what really disgusts me in this whole episode is that Muslim women are simply political fodder, their lives a convenient battleground on which to stake out a leadership bid,” Baroness Warsi wrote.
“This approach is not just offensive, it’s dangerous. Johnson’s words have once again validated the view of those that ‘other’ Muslims. They send out a message that Muslim women are fair game.
“What starts as useful targets for ‘colourful political language’ and the odd bit of toxic campaigning ends up in attacks on our streets.”
Croydon Conservatives, usually hyper-active on social media, have remained silent on the subject of Johnson’s racist remarks.
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