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Boris Johnson says Jo Cox comments a ‘misunderstanding’ as he dismisses language criticism

Boris Johnson says Jo Cox comments a ‘misunderstanding’ as he dismisses language criticism
2 min read

Boris Johnson has said he is “sorry for the misunderstanding” in his response to an MP who cited Jo Cox and death threats in her call for him to tone down his language.

The Prime Minister stopped short of an apology when he was pressed on branding Paula Sherriff’s criticism of his use of terms such as “Surrender Act” as “humbug”.

The move earlier this week sparked angry backlash from MPs, with some demanding the Prime Minister to say sorry for his controversial reaction.

Pointing to the plaque put up in the chamber in honour of the murdered MP on Wednesday, Labour's Ms Sheriff said: "We stand here under the shield of our departed friend, with many of us subject to death threats and abuse every single day.

"And let me tell the Prime Minister that they often quote his words: surrender act, betrayal, traitor.

"I for one am sick of it. We must moderate our language and it has to come from the Prime Minister first."

But Mr Johnson hit back: "I've never heard such humbug in all my life."

Speaking to BBC's Andrew Marr, Mr Johnson accepted that while the atmosphere in the Commons had become “inflamed”, avoiding such terms as "Surrender Act" would be “impoverishing the language and diminishing parliamentary debate”.

Asked whether he regretted his response to the MP’s concerns, Mr Johnson told the show: "What I was referring to, I want to make a very important distinction between that issue, of threats and abuse directed at MPs, which is totally unacceptable and which we have to prevent and what I think is the legitimate use of tried and trusted metaphors to describe certain parliamentary acts or indeed events in politics.

"If you cannot use a metaphor like surrender to describe the surrender act, then in my view you are impoverishing the language and diminishing parliamentary debate...

When pressed further, he added: “My use of the word humbug was in the context of people trying to prevent me from using the word surrender…

“In that case, that was a total misunderstanding and that was wrong...”

“I can certainly say sorry for the misunderstanding, absolutely, but my intention was to refuse to be crowded out from using the word ‘surrender’ to describe the Surrender Act.”

When it was put to him that he might have gone too far during the heated debate, he said: "I certainly think everybody should calm down."

On his own behaviour, he responded: "I think I have been the model of restraint. I think everybody should calm down."

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