BORIS JOHNSON is to be investigated over whether his comments on burkas breach the Conservative Party’s code of conduct.
The former foreign secretary, who compared Muslim women in face-covering veils to ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letter boxes’, attracted a number of complaints which are understood to have automatically triggered an inquiry.
A panel of at least three people will decide if there has been a breach of the code, which requires party representatives to ‘encourage and foster respect and tolerance’ and not use their position ‘to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others’.
Mr Johnson is under pressure to say sorry from a host of figures including prime minister Theresa May, Tory chairman Brandon Lewis and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
The founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Lord Sheikh, was one of those to write to Mr Lewis to ask for ‘serious action’ in response to what critics described as Islamophobia.
Mr Johnson, who is on holiday, has not responded to the demands for an apology following his comments in a Daily Telegraph article in which he argued against a Denmark-style ban on burkas. Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick said, that while many people found his remarks offensive, her officers have assessed that Mr Johnson did not commit a hate crime. ‘What Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence,’ she said.
The row has highlighted Tory divisions, with ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve saying he would quit the party if Brexiteer Mr Johnson became leader.
Backbench eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mrs May was wrong to tell Mr Johnson to apologise. ‘It’s not the job of the prime minister to tell backbenchers what to do,’ he told LBC radio.
In a letter to The Times, Imam Taj Hargey also said Mr Johnson should not ‘apologise for telling the truth’ and there was ‘no Koranic legitimacy’ for the burka. But about 100 Muslim women who wear the burka or niqab wrote to Mr Lewis backing calls for the whip to be withdrawn from Mr Johnson, ‘given a deliberate choice was made to inflame tensions’.
Meanwhile, a Sky News poll found that 45 per cent of voters thought he should apologise, while 48 per cent thought he should not.