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Conservatives claim Boris Johnson will have diversity training after burka comments row

Tory grandees yesterday demanded that the party halt disciplinary proceedings against Boris Johnson over his burka comments, amid claims he could be sent for diversity training.

Supporters of the former foreign secretary have rushed to his defence, with Jacob Rees-Mogg saying the fallout is making the Conservative Party look foolish and claiming there is nothing to investigate. 

Lord Tebbit, a former Tory chairman, accused party chiefs of inflaming the row and allowing Jeremy Corbyn to escape scrutiny over allegations of anti-Semitism.

His intervention came as allies of the former foreign secretary expressed fresh concerns last night about how the matter has been handled so far by party chairman Brandon Lewis.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured) has come to the defence of Boris Johnson and said the Conservative Party is being made to look foolish by the fallout

Jacob Rees-Mogg (right) has come to the defence of Boris Johnson (left) and said the Conservative Party is being made to look foolish by the fallout 

Boris Johnson has refused calls to apologise despite Theresa May (pictured) saying that his remarks caused offence 

Boris Johnson has refused calls to apologise despite Theresa May (pictured) saying that his remarks caused offence 

The former foreign secretary compared burkas to letterboxes and has refused to apologise for his remarks 

The former foreign secretary compared burkas to letterboxes and has refused to apologise for his remarks 

They accused Mr Lewis of discussing the case with Tory MPs, which they said breaches a requirement for complaints to be handled confidentially.

The Tory party launched an investigation into Mr Johnson on Thursday after it received a number of complaints about a newspaper article in which he compared Muslim women who wear the burka to letter boxes and bank robbers.

There are suggestions he could be sent for diversity training as punishment.

Lord Tebbitt said last night: ‘It is completely absurd. If they investigate him, they will find that he said nothing racist. 

‘He defended the right of women to wear a burka should they wish to do so, but said that they look like a letter box.

‘I suggest the party should not be assisting Corbyn to escape the charge of anti-Semitism which hangs over him.’

A group of demonstrators outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association office on Thursday

A group of demonstrators outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association office on Thursday

Leading Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said ‘there is nothing to investigate’ and that the affair was ‘making the Conservative Party look foolish’.

Mr Rees-Mogg suggested the attacks on Mr Johnson’s comment were a reflection of ‘envy’ felt towards him because of ‘his many successes, popularity with voters and charisma’.

The howls of outrage directed at the former figurehead of the Leave campaign were ‘suspect’ and the motivations of those attacking him ‘dubious’, said the North East Somerset MP.

‘Could it be that there is a nervousness that a once and probably future leadership contender is becoming too popular and needs to be stopped?’ asked Mr Rees-Mogg.

‘This may explain the attempt to use the Conservative Party’s disciplinary procedures, but it has been handled so ham-fistedly that it brings only sympathy and support for Mr Johnson.’

What is the Tory disciplinary panel and what punishments could it give Boris?

The Tory party launched its new  stricter code of conduct in 2017 in the wake of the Westminster sex pest scandal.

Under the rules, any member who is accused of flouting the code of conduct could face a grilling by a disciplinary panel.

Here is the process which faces Boris Johnson: 

  1. A panel consisting of no fewer than three people, is appointed by the Party Chairman Brandon Lewis. 
  2. The panel will include a Tory activist, an independent person and someone nominated by the chairman of the 1922 committee – the powerful body of backbench Conservatives.
  3. This panel will investigate the complaint and give their findings to Mr Lewis. 
  4. If they find Mr Johnson has broken party rules then they will refer him to Theresa May and the Board of the Tory party, who decide what punishment to mete out.
  5. They can order a range of punishments – including kicking him out of the party. 

How does the party decide what punishment to give out?

It is up to the PM and the board of the Conservative Party to decide what punishment to give out.

The code of conduct states they have discretion to ‘take such action as they see fit. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, suspension of membership or expulsion from the Party.’

But it suggests that only the most serious cases will be  result in the member being kicked out of the party.

The code states: ‘Any removal of rights of membership will only be made after due considerations of natural justice.’  

And he added: ‘When Margaret Thatcher was leader, she and Michael Heseltine were hardly soulmates, but she would not have allowed personal rivalry to take the heat off the Labour Party, whose own deep internal divisions are buried in other news now, nor would she have countenanced any attempt to have a show trial.

‘Attacking Boris merely helps the Opposition. It is time for good sense to assert itself, free speech to be encouraged and, as the summer rain falls, for hot-headed action to be cooled down.’ 

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the party should end its investigation, noting that Mr Johnson made the remarks while setting out why he was opposed to a ban on the burka.

Mr Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I don’t agree that there was anything particularly wrong with what he said. You may not agree with the tone or jokes, but we have a thing called freedom of speech in this country.’

He added: ‘I don’t think an internal party system should be there to shut down MPs when they speak. You don’t always have to agree with what people say, but we do defend the right of people saying it.’

Former party vice-chairman and Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: ‘What is happening to Boris Johnson is a direct attack on our freedom of speech. I fear an eruption of anger amongst our party’s core voters and grass-roots activists if this obsessive political correctness doesn’t stop.’

Former Tory minister James Duddridge added: ‘The Conservative Party has lost the plot if it thinks launching an investigation into Boris’s comments is helpful.

‘Some people just need to take a cold shower, calm down and have a holiday.’

Supporters of Mr Johnson last night condemned Mr Lewis after Tory MPs wrote in a WhatsApp group that he had held discussions with them about the case.

A former Cabinet minister said: ‘The party’s code is a legal process that must be conducted fairly and confidentially in accordance with natural justice.

‘With his briefing, leaking and off-the-record chats with other MPs, Brandon Lewis has made a mockery of the whole system. His reckless behaviour means the process cannot now be independent or fair.

‘This attack on Boris must be abandoned before more harm is done to our party by the party chairman, and Lewis needs to consider his own position given his disastrous role in this fiasco.’

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom yesterday praised one of Mr Johnson’s former deputy London mayors after she branded his critics as ‘disingenuous’.

In a WhatsApp group for Tory MPs, Mrs Leadsom joined in praise for an article in which Munira Mirza wrote: ‘Mockery of religious practices is not everyone’s choice of tactic, but to act like it is beyond the pale is disingenuous and hypocritical.’

Mrs Leadsom wrote: ‘Agree on the Munira article – she’s a smart lady.’

However ,Tory MP Nadine Dorries wrote in the WhatsApp group: ‘The party has f**ked up big time and one of the worst f**k ups has been the Prime Minister appearing on national TV calling for Boris to apologise. That went down really, really badly.’

Mr Johnson, who is thought to be on holiday in Italy, has not commented since his column was published on Monday.

A source close to Mr Lewis last night rejected the accusation he had breached confidentiality rules, saying: ‘He has not discussed the investigation with anybody. He explained the code of conduct process to two MPs.’ 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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