WATCH: SNP's Ian Blackford sparks row after branding Boris Johnson a 'racist' in the Commons
The SNP’s Ian Blackford sparked a row in the Commons after he branded Boris Johnson a “racist” who was "not fit for office" during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The party’s Westminster leader highlighted a poem published in The Spectator when the former Foreign Secretary was the magazine’s editor, which called Scottish people “vermin” who should be placed in “ghettos”.
Mr Blackford was asked to withdraw his accusations by Commons Speaker John Bercow amid angry scenes on the Conservative benches, but he refused and cited Mr Johnson‘s comments about Muslim women who wear full-face veils.
He said the runaway leader to be the next Tory leader has a “record of dishonesty”, asking in the chamber: “Does the Prime Minister agree with the frontrunner set to succeed her, that the Scottish people are a verminous race who should be placed in ghettoes and exterminated?”
Mr Blackford was referring to a satirical Spectator piece entitled “Friendly Fire“, penned not by Mr Johnson himself but by a staff writer, James Michie, in 2004.
It contains the lines “the Scotch – what a verminous race!” and said it was “time Hadrian’s Wall was refortified to pen them in a ghetto on the other side”, finishing by saying Scotland “deserves not merely isolation, but comprehensive extermination”.
Theresa May replied that “the Conservative and Unionist Party” welcomes the contribution of every part of the United Kingdom, adding: “Long may Scotland remain part of it.”
The SNP leader continued, saying of Mr Johnson: “Does the Prime Minister realise, not only is the member a racist, he is stoking decision in communities and has a record of dishonesty?”
After sustained barracking Mr Bercow intervened, asking Mr Blackford to be “extremely careful in the language he uses” and “withdraw any allegation of racism”.
But he replied that Mr Johnson “has called Muslim women letterboxes” and “described African people as having watermelon smiles”, adding: "If that’s not racist I don’t know what is."
And he finished by asking Mrs May: “Does the Prime Minister honestly believe that this man is fit for the office of Prime Minister?”
The PM said she believed “any Conservative Prime Minister in the future will be better for Scotland than the Scottish Nationalist Party”.
A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn later said: “Boris Johnson has clearly made a series of troubling, Islamophobic and racially charged comments going back over an extremely long period of time."
Watch the exchange below: