Boris Johnson accuses MPs of ‘point scoring’ for demanding an apology over dead bodies gaffe

Posted On: 
17th October 2017

Boris Johnson has accused MPs of "trivialising" the disaster in Libya after he was pressed three times to apologise for a gaffe in which he spoke of “clearing the dead bodies away”.

Boris Johnson in the Commons for Foreign Affairs questions
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Speaking at Conservative conference, Mr Johnson said that business bosses had "a brilliant vision” to turn the devastated city of Sirte "into the next Dubai", before adding: "The only thing they've got to do is clear the dead bodies away and then we'll be there."

The comments were filmed exclusively by PoliticsHome and resulted in calls for him to step down, including from member of his own party.

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Number 10 also issued a slap down, warning that ministers should “be careful with their choice of words”.

Mr Johnson has since failed to apologise, but in an attempt to explain his comments, he took to Twitter shortly after the event to say that the “clearing of corpses of Daesh fighters has been made much more difficult by IEDs and booby traps". 

Addressing the Commons this morning, Mr Johnson was pressed three times to revoke the offending words, but would only turn on his opponents, accusing them of “ignoring the reality” of the situation in Sirte.

He said: “I don’t believe that political point scoring of this kind or trivialising the reality, or ignoring the reality of the security situation in Sirte does any favours to the people of Libya.”

“What they want to see is the international community is concerted and coordinated around the UN plan so that their children have the opportunities that are currently denied to that generation in Libya."

Mr Johnson’s comments earlier this month also sparked outrage from Libya, with Fayez Seraj, who leads Libya's Western-backed government in Tripoli, branding them “unacceptable”.

When asked on how his comments may have impacted on the UK’s relations with Libya today however, the Foreign Secretary said Britain has “very good relations with all parties in Libya”.