Jeremy Corbyn attacks Boris Johnson on past drug use amid bitter row over Jamaican deportation flight
Jeremy Corbyn launched a personal attack on Boris Johnson over his past cocaine use amid a bitter row over the deportation of foreign-born criminals to Jamaica.
In an angry exchange at Prime Minister's Questions, the Labour leader contrasted the fate of a prisoner on board a controversial removal flight to Jamaica with that of the Conservative leader, who in 2008 confirmed he had used the drug during his days as a student.
But Mr Johnson hit back, accusing the Labour leader of "demeaning" himself and standing up for criminals.
A fierce political row has erupted in recent days over the Home Office flight to Jamaica, which went ahead on Tuesday with a reduced number of people on board after the Court of Appeal said some of the prisoners had been denied access to legal representation because of a mobile phone problem.
MPs have meanwhile raised concerns that some of those on the flight came to the UK as children and had committed years-old drug offences.
But Number 10 has robustly defended the removals to the Caribbean island, saying the Court of Appeal's move "prevents the removal from our country of foreign criminals convicted of rape, manslaughter, sexual attacks, violence and drug crimes, which spread misery across our communities".
Raising the issue at PMQs, the Labour leader asked whether victims of county lines grooming, who had been "compelled to carry drugs" and "never reoffended", deserved to be deported, as he claimed ministers had learned "absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal".
And, in a personal attack on the Prime Minister, he said: "This cruel and callous government is trying to mislead the British people into thinking its solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious offences.
"This is clearly not the case. Take the example of a young black boy who came to the UK aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence.
"If there was a case of a young white boy with blonde hair, who later dabbled in Class-A drugs, and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would he deport that boy, or is it Mr Speaker, one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the United States?"
That earned the Labour leader a pointed rebuke from Mr Johnson, who said it was "entirely right that foreign national offenders should be deported from this country in accordance with the law".
And he added: "I think quite frankly that the right honourable gentleman demeans himself and, by the way, besmirches the reputation of the Windrush generation who came to this country to work in our public services, to teach our children in this country, to make lives better for the people of this country."
The Prime Minister added: "He has no right to conflate them with those foriergn national offenders that we are deporting today."
The Labour leader's claim that the Prime Minister has "dabbled in Class-A drugs" is likely to be a reference to a 2008 interview in which the then-candidate for mayor of London confessed that he had taken cocaine when he was 19.
He had told the Have I Got News for You programme that he was "once given cocaine, but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose".
And he later said to Marie Claire: "Well, that was when I was 19. It all goes to show that sometimes it’s better not to say anything. I thoroughly disagree with drugs. I don’t want my kids having drugs."
The row comes after a senior Tory source attacked Labour for challenging the Government on the deportation flight, which has so far seen 17 offenders removed from the country.
The source said: "The ‘Westminster bubble’ view of trying to halt this flight makes the case perfectly to the public about why such a review is needed.
“And why certain parts of Westminster still haven’t learned the lesson from the 2019 election.”
More than 170 MPs and peers this week wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to halt the flight until a Government-commissioned review into the Windrush scandal - which saw scores of British citizens who came to the UK decades ago deported - has been published.
A leaked draft of the review recommended that deportations of foreign-born offenders, particularly those who came to the UK as children, should be reconsidered.