Login to access your account

Tue, 14 July 2020

Personalise Your Politics

Subscribe now
The House Live All
New appointments this week in UK politics, the civil service and public affairs Member content
Home affairs
Press releases

EXCL WATCH Boris Johnson claim Libya can be like Dubai 'once they clear the dead bodies'

EXCL WATCH Boris Johnson claim Libya can be like Dubai 'once they clear the dead bodies'
4 min read

Theresa May has been urged to sack Boris Johnson after he said the war-torn Libyan city of Sirte can be like Dubai "once they clear the dead bodies away".

Exclusive footage shot by PoliticsHome shows some Conservatives at a party conference fringe event laughing at the Foreign Secretary's off-the-cuff remarks.

Conservative peer Baroness Stroud, who was chairing the event, can then be heard saying "next question" in an attempt to move on from the gaffe.

Libya has been plunged into a bitter civil war, resulting in the death of thousands, after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The city of Sirte was finally captured from Isil militants last year, but the country is still largely ungovernable.

Mr Johnson told the fringe event that he had had a "fantastic" trip to Libya in August and suggested that UK businesses were ready to invest there again.

He said: "It's an incredible country, I mean you've never seen anything - bone white sands, beautiful seas, Ceasar's Palace, obviously, you know, the real one... incredible place.

"It's got real potential and young people who want to do all sorts of tech stuff. There's a group of UK business people actually, I don't know whether you have come across this, wonderful guys, who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was actually captured and executed as some of you may have seen.

"They've got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte, with the help of the municipality of Sirte, to turn it into the next Dubai.

"The only thing they've got to do is clear the dead bodies away and then we'll be there."

Watch Mr Johnson's remarks from 23 minutes into this video.



Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Mr Johnson "does not belong" in his job.

She said: "It is less than a year since Sirte was finally captured from Daesh by the Libyan Government of National Accord, a battle in which hundreds of government soldiers were killed and thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire, the second time in five years that the city had seen massive loss of life as a result of the Libyan civil war.

"For Boris Johnson to treat those deaths as a joke - a mere inconvenience before UK business people can turn the city into a beach resort - is unbelievably crass, callous and cruel.

"If these words came from the business people themselves, it would be considered offensive enough, but for them to come from the Foreign Secretary is simply a disgrace.

"There comes a time when the buffoonery needs to stop, because if Boris Johnson thinks the bodies of those brave government soldiers and innocent civilians killed in Sirte are a suitable subject for throwaway humour, he does not belong in the office of Foreign Secretary."

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokeswoman Jo Swinson also said he should be sacked.

"Diplomacy is a basic requirement for the role of Foreign Secretary," she said. "This latest unbelievably crass and insensitive comment about an issue of such importance is further proof Boris is not up to the job.

"May needs to get her house in order and sack him."

Even Conservative MP Heidi Allen last night joined in the demands for Mr Johnson to lose his job.

The Foreign Secretary took to Twitter late last night in an attempt to dampen down the political row.

Mr Johnson's gaffe came just three hours after he had lifted Tory spirits with a barnstorming speech in the main conference centre.


Partner content
NHS Parliamentary Awards

The NHS Parliamentary Awards sponsored by Fujifilm are a chance for all MPs in England to celebrate the outstanding care they and their constituents receive.

Find out more