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Tory MPs demand Boris Johnson is sacked over Libya 'dead bodies' comment as backlash grows

3 min read

Conservative MPs have joined the calls for Boris Johnson to be sacked after he said the war-torn Libyan city of Sirte can be like Dubai "once they clear the dead bodies away".

Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry both said he should lose his job as Foreign Secretary, while Sarah Wollaston said he should "consider his position".

First Secretary of State Damian Green - the de-facto right hand man to the Prime Minister - told Mr Johnson to “be careful” in his use of language as the row surrounding his colleague’s comments dominated his round of broadcast interviews this morning.

Footage first published by PoliticsHome shows some Conservatives laughing at the Foreign Secretary's off-the-cuff remarks, which were made at a comference fringe event last night.

Libya was plunged into a bitter civil war, resulting in the deaths 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 said business bosses had “a brilliant vision to turn Sirte, with the help of the municipality of Sirte, to turn it into the next Dubai”.

And he added: "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.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats quickly issued demands for the Foreign Secretary to be sacked, while Ms Allen and Ms Soubry made their anger clear on Twitter.

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston told Radio 4's Today programme: "I think these remarks were crass, poorly judged and grossly insensitive. And this is from the person who is representing us on the world stage. I think it’s really disappointing," she said.

She added: "Of course he should unequivocally apologise not try to justify those kinds of remarks... I think he should consider his position."

Bim Afolami, the Tory MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, said: "Boris Johnson has a unique way of communicating, he is a very, very powerful politician, but sometimes these things get a bit much."

And Ben Bradley, the Conservative MP for Mansfield, said: "Boris is an incredible character and we all enjoy listening to him speak. He sometimes doesn't quite know when to stop, does he?"

Asked about the comments this morning, Damian Green told the BBC it was “not an acceptable” choice of words.

“We should all be careful in our use of language, particularly in relation to sensitive and difficult subjects like Libya,” he added.

“Everyone including Boris needs to be careful in their use of language.”

Mr Johnson took to Twitter late last night in an attempt to dampen down the political row, insisting he had been making a serious point about the tactics used by Islamist fighters.

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

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