Downing Street slaps down Boris Johnson over Libya ‘dead bodies’ gaffe
Theresa May has slapped down Boris Johnson for his “inappropriate” remark that the war-torn Libyan city of Sirte can be like Dubai "once they clear the dead bodies away"
A string of Conservative MPs said the Foreign Secretary should be sacked or resign, while condemnation flooded in from across the political divide.
But in remarks that might anger some as being too weak, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the matter was closed and refused to demand an apology.
Libya was plunged into a bitter civil war, resulting in the deaths of thousands, after Colonel 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."
De-facto deputy Prime Minister Damian Green this morning said Mr Johnson should be “careful” in his use of language – a sentiment echoed by No 10.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The First Secretary of State said this morning that politicians should be careful with their choice of words and the PM would echo that sentiment.
“We did not feel it was an appropriate choice of words."
The spokesman said the matter was now closed, and asked if he should apologise, he said: "That's a matter for him."
Conservative grandee Ken Clarke was among those who lashed out at the Foreign Secretary, saying he had “done himself enormous harm”.
“I think Boris has done himself enormous harm. He should go away and try and find out something about foreign policy and try to be foreign secretary,” he said.
“He's good at photo opportunities but he doesn't give many serious policy utterances,” he went on, adding, in reference to Mr Johnson’s leadership prospects: “I think the Boris challenge has gone away.”
MPs Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry both said he should lose his job as Foreign Secretary, while Sarah Wollaston said he should "consider his position".
Exclusive footage shot by PoliticsHome shows some Conservatives at a party conference fringe event laughing at the Foreign Secretary's off-the-cuff remarks.
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.