No10 accused of witch hunt over Boris Johnson burqa investigation

Number Ten was today accused of orchestrating a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’ against Boris Johnson after the Tories launched a formal probe into his burqa comments.

The ex Foreign Secretary faces being punished by party bosses and could even be kicked out of the party  after comparing women in the head veils to letterboxes.

Tory sources have insisted the party was left with no choice but to launch the probe because it was triggered automatically after they received a flurry of complaints.

But the move has sparked a furious backlash from Mr Johnson’s allies who have accused No10 of trying to ‘destroy’ the ex minister because they see him as a threat.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told MailOnline: ‘I believe this is politically motivated, by the internal politics of the Tory party, by politicians who want to humiliate and destroy Boris Johnson.’

He added: ‘I believe that the public will see this for what it is – an internal Conservative party witch hunt instigated by Number Ten against Boris Johnson, who they see as a huge threat.’ 

Boris Johnson has sparked a political storm after making the controversial remarks in his weekly column

Theresa May has the power to decide what punishment to mete out to Boris Johnson if he is found to have broken rules

Boris Johnson (pictured left) is being investigated by the Tory party after comparing women wearing burqas to letterboxes – but his supporters have slammed Theresa May and No10 saying they are orchestrating the move to damage his career

Imam Taj Hargey, pictured last year  on ITV's This Mornibf with Sahar Al-Faifi, has backed Boris Johnson in the ongoing burka row and he believes it should be banned

Imam Taj Hargey, pictured last year  on ITV’s This Mornibf with Sahar Al-Faifi, has backed Boris Johnson in the ongoing burka row and he believes it should be banned

Mr Bridgen said he was shocked an investigation had been triggered as other Tory MPs have criticised the head veils before but not faced probes over it.

He said: ‘I’m surprised that an investigation is going to be instigated into Boris’ article and his refusal to apologise, especially given Ken Clarke in 2013 described burqas as peculiar.

‘I don’t remember any outcry or calls for an investigation into Ken Clarke’s alleged Islamophobia.

Under Tory Party rules, an investigating officer will now decide if Mr Johnson has flouted their code of conduct and if the probe should be referred on to a panel to grill him on.  

If they find him at fault then Mrs May can decide what punishment to give her former minister – and could even kick him out of the Tory Party. 

What is the Tory disciplinary panel and what punishments could it give Boris?

The Tory party launched its new  stricter code of conduct in 2017 in the wake of the Westminster sex pest scandal.

Under the rules, any member who is accused of flouting the code of conduct could face a grilling by a disciplinary panel.

Here is the process which faces Boris Johnson: 

  1. A panel consisting of no fewer than three people, is appointed by the Party Chairman Brandon Lewis. 
  2. The panel will include a Tory activist, an independent person and someone nominated by the chairman of the 1922 committee – the powerful body of backbench Conservatives.
  3. This panel will investigate the complaint and give their findings to Mr Lewis. 
  4. If they find Mr Johnson has broken party rules then they will refer him to Theresa May and the Board of the Tory party, who decide what punishment to mete out.
  5. They can order a range of punishments – including kicking him out of the party. 

How does the party decide what punishment to give out?

It is up to the PM and the board of the Conservative Party to decide what punishment to give out.

The code of conduct states they have discretion to ‘take such action as they see fit. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, suspension of membership or expulsion from the Party.’

But it suggests that only the most serious cases will be  result in the member being kicked out of the party.

The code states: ‘Any removal of rights of membership will only be made after due considerations of natural justice.’  

But Mr Bridgen said he has no confidence justice will be done because Mrs May has already passed judgement on Mr Johnson and called for him to apologise over the remarks. 

He warned: ‘They seem to have predetermined the outcome.’ 

Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis has decided to stand down from his role in selecting the panel if the investigation gets that far as he has already publicly condemned Mr Johnson over the remark.

Several Tory Brexiteers have rallied to his defence and said Mr Johnson is only expressing the views of people across the country and should no be muzzled

And senior British Imam Taj Hargey, from the Oxford Islamic Congregation, today defended the ex minister, who he said ‘did not go far enough’ because the burqa has ‘no Koranic legitimacy’ and should be banned in Britain.

And he said that the former Cabinet minister must ‘not apologise for telling the truth’ about the burka because it is ‘un-Muslim’ and a ‘hideous tribal ninja-like garment’. 

Meanwhile, Britain’s most senior police officer Cressida Dick today said that the former minister ‘did not commit a criminal offence’ by making the comments.

And Mr Johnson is facing another political storm after a parliamentary watchdog wrote to wrap him for breaking rules by taking up the £275,000-a-year job as a Daily Telegraph columnist. 

Under the ministerial code, ex ministers must apply to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) and wait three months before they can take up a new job.  

Under the Tory Party investigation announced today, Mr Johnson could be suspended or even expelled from the party.

Under Conservative rules, the party can investigate any member who is accused of beaching their code of conduct, which was unveiled late last year in the wake of the Westminster sex pest scandal.

This sets out how members of the Conservative party are expected to behave – including showing a commitment to ‘support equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion’.

A Conservative party spokesman said: ‘The code of conduct process is strictly confidential.’ 

However, the party has made it clear that it is against a burqa ban or any restrictions on religious clothing.

And sources said the probe was triggered after a number of complaints were received.

The row over the burqa comments has turned into a major political storm with MPs and religious figures wading in. 

IScottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson slammed Mr Johnson and said wearing a veil is no different to wearing a crucifix.

But British Imam Dr Hargey told The Times that he backed Mr Johnson and warned that the burqa and niqab are: ‘A nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam’.

Protestors outside Mr Johnson's Uxbridge and South Ruislip Conservative office on Thursday

Protestors outside Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip Conservative office on Thursday

An anti-Conservative protester outside the former Foreign Secretary's constituency office 

An anti-Conservative protester outside the former Foreign Secretary’s constituency office 

A group of demonstrators outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association office on Thursday

A group of demonstrators outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association office on Thursday

A protester outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association protests Mr Johnson's comments

A protester outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association protests Mr Johnson’s comments

People hold up megaphones and placards during the protest in Mr Johnson's constituency 

People hold up megaphones and placards during the protest in Mr Johnson’s constituency 

Protesters hold up a banner in West London in a rebuke to Mr Johnson's comments

Protesters hold up a banner in West London in a rebuke to Mr Johnson’s comments

The Imam has been a critic of the burqa and previously allowed men and women to pray together as well as discouraging Muslim-only schools.

He said: ‘The burqa and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim. 

‘Although this deliberate identity-concealing contraption is banned at the Kaaba in Mecca it is permitted in Britain, thus precipitating security risks, accelerating vitamin D deficiency, endorsing gender-inequality and inhibiting community cohesion. 

Britain’s most senior police officer says Boris did not break hate crime laws 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said that while many people have found them offensive, he 'did not commit a criminal offence'

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said that while many people have found them offensive, he ‘did not commit a criminal offence’

Britain’s most senior police officer today said that Boris Johnson did not break hate crime laws with his burqa comments.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said that while many people have found them offensive, he ‘did not commit a criminal offence’.

She said: ‘I know that many people have found this offensive.

‘I also know that many other people believe strongly that in the whole of the article, what Mr Johnson appears to have been attempting to do was to say that there shouldn’t be a ban and that he was engaging in a legitimate debate.’

In an interview with the BBC Asian network, she added: ‘Some people have clearly found it offensive.

‘I spoke last night to my very experienced officers who deal with hate crime and, although we have not yet received any allegation of such a crime, I can tell you that my preliminary view having spoken to them is that what Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence. 

‘He did not commit a criminal offence.’

‘Johnson did not go far enough. Britain must emulate France, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria and Denmark in banning the burqa’.

Meanwhile, Met Police Commissioner Ms Dick, made it clear Mr Johnson has not broken any laws.

She said: ‘I know that many people have found this offensive.

‘I also know that many other people believe strongly that in the whole of the article, what Mr Johnson appears to have been attempting to do was to say that there shouldn’t be a ban and that he was engaging in a legitimate debate.’

Asked what she made of the language the former foreign secretary used, Ms Dick told the BBC Asian Network: ‘Some people have clearly found it offensive.

‘I spoke last night to my very experienced officers who deal with hate crime and, although we have not yet received any allegation of such a crime, I can tell you that my preliminary view having spoken to them is that what Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence. 

‘He did not commit a criminal offence.’

But senior Tories  have rounded on the ex minister over the row and urged him to apologise. 

Ms Davidson, who is seen as a potential rival to Mr Johnson for the party leadership, said questioning the burqa was like challenging the rights of Christians to wear a crucifix.

But Mr Johnson, who is on holiday, refused to back down. 

His supporters claim the row is being exploited by Tory Remainers angry at his position on Brexit. 

The row began on Monday when the former foreign secretary wrote about the burqa in his Daily Telegraph column.

Mr Johnson said he was opposed to banning the garment in public places, but added: ‘It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.

‘If a constituent came to my surgery  with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled to ask her to remove it.

Standards watchdog raps Boris for breaking rules in signing £275K newspaper deal

Boris Johnson has been formally reprimanded for breaking parliamentary rules in signing up to a £275,000 a year newspaper column deal days after he quit as Foreign Secretary, it today emerged.    

Under the ministerial code, ex ministers must apply to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) and wait three months before they can take up a new job.

But Mr Johnson signed up to his lucrative column with the Daily Telegraph just days after he stormed out of Theresa May‘s government in a row over Brexit last month.

And he did not seek permission before agreeing to resume his journalism job. 

Now Acoba has written to the Tory MP to tell him off for breaking the ministerial code by not telling them about the job  before he signed up to it. 

But Acoba does not have any actual powers to punish Mr Johnson for breaking the rules.

‘If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto.’

The remarks sparked outrage from Muslim groups and MPs who accused him of ‘fanning the flames of Islamophobia’.

Over the past three days Tory and Labour figures have taken to the airwaves to condemn Mr Johnson.

Yesterday, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright stepped up the attacks, claiming it was wrong for Mr Johnson to describe the burqa as ‘ridiculous and oppressive’. He told the BBC: ‘That’s the sort of language I think we should try to avoid using.’

Miss Davidson, who leads the Scottish Tories, said: ‘This wasn’t an off-the-cuff slip, he wrote a column, he knew exactly what he was doing and I think it crossed from being provocative and starting a debate and it became rude and gratuitous.

‘If you use the analogy of Christianity, would you ever write in the Daily Telegraph that you should have a debate about banning Christians from wearing crucifixes?

‘It’s the same argument but it’s in a different faith so why are the parameters different for one faith and not the other?

‘That’s where you start getting these questions of what constitutes anti-Semitism, what constitutes Islamophobia.

‘I agree with the point of his piece which was you shouldn’t ban the burqa, the niqab, the hijab – I don’t think we should ban it – but what he said was a gratuitously offensive way of saying it.’

Lord Sheikh, the founder and president of the Conservative Muslim Forum, demanded the party whip be withdrawn from Mr Johnson. 

He said he had written to party chairman Brandon Lewis calling for severe action over the views.

The Conservative chairman tweeted out a message of solidarity with those who have called for Mr Johnson to apologise 

The Conservative chairman tweeted out a message of solidarity with those who have called for Mr Johnson to apologise 

‘In a way it is racist,’ the peer told Sky News. ‘These words are very inflammatory. 

‘They will cause problems with race relations. It will encourage bigotry.’  

Senior British Imam backs Boris Johnson in burqa row 

Imam Taj Hargey, pictured last year  on ITV's This Mornibf with Sahar Al-Faifi, has backed Boris Johnson in the ongoing burka row and he believes it should be banned

Imam Taj Hargey, pictured last year  on ITV’s This Mornibf with Sahar Al-Faifi, has backed Boris Johnson in the ongoing burka row and he believes it should be banned

A senior British Imam today backed Boris Johnson in the burqa row and said the oppressive face coverings should be banned.

Imam Taj Hargey, from the Oxford Islamic Congregation said the Tory MP has nothing to apologise for and ‘did not go far enough’ in his remarks.

He branded the burqa a ‘hideous tribal ninja-like garment’ and said its has ‘no Koranic legitimacy’.

His strident defence came as the Tory Party confirmed it has launched a formal investigation into Mr Johnson for comparing women in burqas to letter boxes.   

Mr Hargey warned that the burqa has become trendy among more militants Islamists who peddle views which can be a gateway for religious extremism.

And he urged the UK to follow in the footsteps of other European countries like France and Denmark and ban the burqa.

Writing in The Times, he said: ‘Boris Johnson should not apologise for telling the truth.’

He said the ex minister had reminded the country that the face mask ‘has no Koranic legitimacy’ but is ‘a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam’.

He added: ‘The burqa and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim.’ 

He said that some backward-looking elements in the Muslim community have managed to persuade may in British society that it is in the Islamic faith for women to cover their faces.

But he said this must be challenged in Britain and that the state should step in to stop it.

He said: ‘Johnson did not go far enough. If Britain is to become a fully integrated society then it is incumbent that cultural practices, personal preferences and communal customs that aggravate social division should be firmly resisted. 

‘For this reason Britain must emulate France, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria and Denmark in banning the burqa.’ 

And this morning civil society minister Tracey Crouch said women across the UK will feel very disappointed by the comments as she added her voice to those demanding he apologise.

She said: ‘I think his language was intentionally provocative. 

‘What he was trying to say was that we should not oppress religious freedom, women should decide what they wear. I think that is something we all agree on.

‘He used very colourful language on purpose written down in an article and I think he was wrong to do so.

‘I support the Prime Minister in what she has said. He should apologise.

‘I think we need to get back to the issue abut protecting those religious freedoms and not tell women what to wear.’

She warned that Muslim women say they feel threatened after the controversial remarks.

Ms Crouch added: ‘The fact is we as politicians should be setting an example for people. 

‘A few months ago I was quite critical of Boris for the way he looked while he went out running.

‘Now let’s be clear nobody looks good when they are out running, particularly a middle aged man like Boris. 

‘And now I feel that level of respect I tried to show him and defend him in that debate has been cast aside because he is talking about what women wear in a particular expression of religious freedom, and I just think that is wrong.’

She added said that she is ‘very disappointed’ in Mr Jonson, adding: ‘I think there are lots of women who are. I think there are lots of people who are. 

‘This is not about the issue wearing the burqa, its about the language he used and he used it in an intentional way because it was written down in an article. 

Former party chairman Lord Pickles suggested he had been treated more lightly than other members might be.

Writing in The Guardian, Baroness Warsi said Mr Johnson’s comments ‘send out a message that Muslim women are fair game’. 

She added: ‘What starts as useful targets for ‘colourful political language’ and the odd bit of toxic campaigning ends up in attacks on our streets.

‘He set out a liberal position, but he did it in a very ‘alt-right’ way. 

This allowed him to dog-whistle: to say to particular elements of the party that he’s tough on Muslims. 

‘Yet again, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it. 

‘So, as much as Johnson thinks he’s being his usual clever self, he’s helping to create an environment in which hate crime is more likely.

‘Every time incidents like this occur in the party and there are no consequences, it sends out a clear message that you can get away with Islamophobia.’

What did Boris Johnson say about the burqa and the niqab?

The ex Foreign Secretary sparked a storm of controversy after using his weekly newspaper  column to compare women who wear burqas to letterboxes and bank robbers. 

The burqa is a full face covering that is associated with a conservative interpretation of Islam. 

It is different to the hijab, which leaves the face uncovered, or the niqab, which leaves the eyes exposed.

In his Daily Telegraph article Mr Johnson said that he felt ‘fully entitled’ to expect women who wear face coverings to take them off when talking to him at his MP surgery.

He also said schools and universities are entitled to take the same approach if a pupil comes in ‘looking like a bank robber’.

Mr Johnson branded the burqa ‘oppressive’ and said it is ‘weird and bullying to expect people to cover their faces’.

He added that he could not find scriptural authority for the dress code in the Koran.

And he said ‘it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes’.  

But Nadine Dorries, a backbench Tory MP, said the backlash showed Mr Johnson’s rivals were terrified of him challenging the Prime Minister.

She told TalkRadio: ‘People who are outraged – who are utterly terrified – know that at some stage, any day soon, Boris may make a challenge for the leadership and the position in No 10. Yes, some people were offended but they are not people who would vote for Boris or ever vote Conservative anyway.’

The first opinion poll on the row showed backing for Mr Johnson.

According to the survey by Sky Data, 60 per cent believe it was not racist to compare Muslim women wearing burqas to bank robbers or letter boxes, while 33 per cent said it was. 

Forty-eight per cent thought Mr Johnson should not apologise for his remarks, compared with 45 per cent who thought he should.

Mr Johnson wrote the newspaper article after Denmark became the latest European country to impose a ban on wearing burkas in public.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents said they supported enacting such a ban in the UK.

For the poll, Sky Data interviewed a representative sample of 1,649 customers by text message.

Tory MP Conor Burns, who was Mr Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary, said his former boss’s critics had an agenda. 

He tweeted: ‘We are now into full bandwagon-jumping territory. 

Seeing some of the tweets from colleagues desperate not to get left behind I can’t see they can even have read it.’  

Theresa May (pictured in Edinburgh yesterday) said that Boris Johnson should apologise for the remarks as they had clearly offended some people

Theresa May (pictured in Edinburgh yesterday) said that Boris Johnson should apologise for the remarks as they had clearly offended some people

Mr Johnson's column came amid protests in Denmark (pictured) which has introduced a ban on face coverings 

Mr Johnson’s column came amid protests in Denmark (pictured) which has introduced a ban on face coverings 

Denmark's new face veil ban is likely to apply to the niqab and burqa - not the hijab and chador

Denmark’s new face veil ban is likely to apply to the niqab and burqa – not the hijab and chador

Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry said she would not want a woman wearing a burqa to look after her young daughter 

The Labour shadow minister made the comments while on Newsnight in 2013 (pictured)

The Labour shadow minister made the comments while on Newsnight in 2013 (pictured)

Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry said she would not feel comfortable with a woman in a burqa looking after her young daughter or elderly mother, it was today revealed. 

The shadow foreign secretray told a BBC Newsnight audience back in 2013 that women in certain roles must show their faces.

However she said she does not agree with a ban and that burqa-clad women could work in back office roles. 

She said: ‘I wouldn’t want my four year old looked after by somebody wearing a burqa. 

‘I wouldn’t want my elderly mum looked after by somebody wearing a burqa. They need to be able to show their face. 

‘I wouldn’t mind if they worked in records in the hospital.’ 




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