Steve Bannon says Boris Johnson must not apologise over burqa row
Controversial ex-Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon has urged Boris Johnson not to apologise for his comments about the burqa.
The right-wing figure said the former Cabinet minster must not "bow at the altar of political correctness" after he said women wearing burqas looked like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers".
It comes after concerns were raised that Mr Bannon - who is credited with getting the US president into the White House - is advising Mr Johnson on how to seize the Tory leadership.
The former Breitbart executive and godfather of the so-called alt-right movement said the Uxbridge MP had "nothing to apologise for".
“Excuse me, didn’t he actually support the wearing of the veil?” Mr Bannon said in an interview with the Sunday Times.
“His entire argument revolves around not wanting to ban the burqa, but arguing that he agrees that it’s an oppressive garment and that there is no scriptural basis for it in the Koran, which is true. I think the substance got lost because of his throwaway line.”
He added: “The hysterical mainstream media can never separate the ‘signal from the noise’ – fortunately, the populists can.”
Critics suggested that Mr Johnson’s article had been influenced by a meeting with the controversial Republican strategist ahead of a possible Autumn leadership challenge.
But Mr Bannon, who admitted that he “admired” the Tory bigwig, refused to be drawn on the allegation.
“Any conversations I have with active political figures are confidential – I consider Boris Johnson someone who understands the physics in the ebb and flow of events. Those individuals are rare”, he said.
But he added: “Boris just needs to be Boris – true to his nature and his calling – and I think he has potential to be a great Prime Minister, not a good one.”
Elsewhere, Mr Bannon, who served as Mr Trump’s campaign chief during the 2016 presidential race, warned the Conservative party that it could face a resurgent Ukip if it pushed ahead with the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal.
He said: “If they cobble a deal together along the lines of the Chequers deal, there’ll be rebellion inside the Conservative party. And I don’t just mean the MPs. I mean the members. Prepare for Ukip to hit 20% in the polls again.”