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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Boris Johnson insists he will continue to speak his mind despite burka row if he becomes PM

3 min read

Boris Johnson has insisted he will continue to speak his mind if he becomes Prime Minister even if his use of language causes offence.

The Tory leadership frontrunner - who was embroiled in a row last year after claiming Muslim women wearing burkas look like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers" - said the public wanted straight-talking from their politicians.

Mr Johnson spoke out at the launch of his leadership campaign, which saw questions from the media limited and journalists heckled by his supporters.

The former Foreign Secretary was reminded that the burka remarks, as well his claim that Theresa May's Brexit deal had "wrapped a suicide vest" around the British constitution, had drawn severe criticism from Tory MPs.

But he said he would not be silenced if he succeeds in his attempt to become Prime Minister.

"Of course occasionally some plaster comes off the ceiling as a result of a phrase I may have used or indeed as a result of the way that phrase has been taken out of context and interpreted by those who wish for reasons of their own to caraciture my views," he said.

"But I think it is vital that we as politicians remember that one of the reasons why the public feels alienated now from us all as a breed is because we are muffling and veiling our language. We don't speak as we find and cover it up in bureaucratic language when what they want to hear is what we really think.

"And if sometimes in the course of trying to get across what I genuinely think I use phrases and language that have caused offence then of course I'm sorry for the offence I've caused but I will continue to speak as directly as I can."

Mr Johnson - who failed to give a straight answer when asked if, like leadership rival Michael Gove, he had ever taken cocaine - also insisted that he will be able to deliver Brexit with a deal on 31 October.

The MP for Uxbridge has insisted that he will take the UK out of the EU on that date "deal or no deal", but dismissed the prospect of MPs refusing to back any reworked agreement he reaches with Brussels.

He said: "Parliament voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50 and get this thing done. I think if we now block it as collectively as parliamentarians we will reap the whirlwind and we will face mortal retribution from the electorate.

"And I just say to our friends and colleagues, lets come together, get this thing done and in Brussels they will have a government as I say that will, inspired with a new vigour, a new confidence, a new optimism about what we can do but also total conviction about the way forward and how to get it done. 

"I think that we will get results. I’m not going to pretend to you now that everything will be plain sailing, there will be difficulties and there may be bumps in the road, but my team will hit the ground running, we will have a fantastic team and we will work flat out between now and 31 October 31.

"And I think we will get the result the country needs, a sensible, orderly Brexit that allows this country to flourish as a great independent nation but also that builds a new partnership with our friends across the channel."

Mr Johnson's launch came 24 hours before Tory MPs are given their first chance to vote on the 10 candidates vying for the party leadership.

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