Former Tory chair Baroness Warsi blasts 'bigot' Boris Johnson after burqa comments

Posted On: 
7th August 2018

A senior Conservative has accused Boris Johnson of "bigotry" after he said women wearing burqas look like letter boxes and bank robbers.

Baroness Warsi said: "Muslim women should not be a useful political battleground for old Etonians.”
PA Images

Sayeeda Warsi, a former co-chair of the party, said the former Foreign Secretary was using Muslim women as "a convenient political football to increase poll ratings amongst the Tory faithful".

In an article for the Telegraph about full-face veils, Mr Johnson said it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes”.

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And he said school teachers or university lecturers would be within their rights to refuse to talk to students who arrived at class “looking like a bank robber”.

But speaking on Channel 4 News, Baroness Warsi said: “These were offensive comments but clever politics.

"Boris knew the effect and the impact that this kind of dog whistle politics would have - he's familiar with it from his involvement in the Leave campaign during the Brexit debate.

"This is literally the kind of bigotry of [Steve] Bannon and the tactics of [Donald] Trump finding itself in our mainstream British politics."

She added: “Muslim women need to stop being a convenient political football to increase poll ratings amongst the Tory faithful. Muslim women should not be a useful political battleground for old Etonians.”

Ms Warsi renewed her call for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party - which the top brass has so far resisted.

Meanwhile, Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell MAMA, the national anti-Muslim hate monitoring project, said that Mr Johnson's comments "clearly" amounted to Islamophobia.

"These are the kind of comments we have seen that have been made by extremist far right group snap people who have been maliciously attacking muslims", Mr Mughal said.

He added: "The fact of the matter is the relationship with muslim communities is extremely poor with this government. And at a time when many members of the muslim community are feeling targeted and are being targeted the fact is the community wants reassurance centrally from 10 Downing Street."

And the group slammed Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis for failing to tackle Islamophobia in the party after meeting with him earlier this year.

"A series of correspondence went back to the chair's office saying a number of steps needed to be taken to build reassurance around tackling anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia", Mr Mughal added.

"And absolutely nothing happened.

"There was no response back and it was all in effect quote unquote taken in house. It was effectively said to us that they would manage the issues. The reality again is again its not good enough."


Labour MP David Lammy called Mr Johnson a "pound shop Trump", while his party colleague Jess Phillips has reported the former foreign secretary to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

The Muslim Council of Britain and the Conservative Muslim Forum have also joined the backlash against the Uxbridge MP, who quit the Cabinet last month over Brexit.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said yesterday: "The longstanding government position on this is clear – we do not support a ban on wearing of the veil in public.

“Such a prescriptive approach would be out of keeping with British values such as religious intolerance and gender equality."

But a source close to Mr Johnson said he had been "clearly making a liberal case against introducing a total ban like other European nations".