Boris Johnson has admitted to regrets about pulling out of the Tory leadership contest in 2016, but is unrepentant over his remarks saying women wearing burqas look like letter boxes or bank robbers in an article last summer. In a phone-in on LBC radio, the former foreign secretary said it was important for politicians to…
Boris Johnson has admitted to regrets about pulling out of the Tory leadership contest in 2016, but is unrepentant over his remarks saying women wearing burqas look like letter boxes or bank robbers in an article last summer.
In a phone-in on LBC radio, the former foreign secretary said it was important for politicians to speak their minds. He spoke of his “heart searching” over a decision to pull out of the leadership race after Michael Gove entered the contest and damaged his chances.
Johnson said: “In retrospect, if I had my time again, I might have done things differently. I certainly have engaged in a lot of heart-searching about it ever since.”
Asked whether the lack of sufficient support was his reason for “bottling” the race, Johnson said: “There is no point crying over spilt milk. The key point is to get on and look at where we are today, and there is no vacancy today.”
Responding to the uncle of a woman who was assaulted by a man trying to take off her niqab, Johnson said he had no regrets over his remarks about veiled Muslim women. He denied his comments in an article in the Telegraph provoked such incidents.
Johnson said: “Having written that piece I received overwhelming support not just from Muslims but also above all from Muslim women who agreed with me.”
Asked if would repeat such comments, he said: “Yes of course I would. People say politicians should be careful what they say and they should watch their words and all this sort of mumbo jumbo. I don’t agree. I don’t want to cause offence, if I can possibly avoid it, but one of the duties of a politician is to speak his mind or her mind.”
“I don’t agree with women being cajoled to wear clothing that obscures their faces. Somebody has to speak up for those who aren’t [happy wearing burqas] and that is the duty of politicians.”
On Brexit, Johnson said the UK would leave the EU on 29 March despite Theresa May’s withdrawal bill being expected to be rejected by MPs on Tuesday. He said MPs were “playing with fire” by manoeuvring to thwart Brexit.
“I notice all this stuff about complicated jiggery pokery for parliament to frustrate the deal. If we think that by coming up with all sorts of complicated amendments and delaying tactics we are going to fool the British public, we are going to manage to frustrate Brexit, I think we will reap the whirlwind.”
He added: “People will feel betrayed and they will feel there’s been a great conspiracy by the deep state of the UK, to overturn the verdict of the people. I do think people will be appalled if parliament ducks it.”