Britons split over Boris Johnson’s burka comments

Boris Johnson leaves his grace-and-favour residence in Carlton Gardens after resigning from the government. Picture: Getty
Boris Johnson leaves his grace-and-favour residence in Carlton Gardens after resigning from the government. Picture: Getty

A majority of adults in the UK do not believe Boris Johnson’s comments describing women who wear burkas as looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” are racist, a poll has suggested.

Six in 10 - 60 per cent - said the comments by the former foreign secretary were not racist, while 33 per cent thought they were.

But the survey for the Sky News found people are split as to whether the former foreign secretary should apologise for his remarks - 45 per cent think he should do so, 48 per cent think he should not.

Ruth Davidson is among the senior Consersvatives who have said Mr Johnson should apologise for his “gratuitously offensive” comments on the burka.

“I think that this wasn’t an off-the-cuff slip, he wrote a column, he knew exactly what he was doing and I think it crossed from being provocative and starting a debate and actually it became rude and gratuitous,” the Scots Tory leader said.

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Mr Johnson, who quit Theresa May’s Cabinet last month in a dispute over Brexit negotiations, used a newspaper column to argue against calls for a ban on the face-covering veils in public places, but described them as “absolutely ridiculous” and compared their wearers to rebellious teenagers.

His comments, in response to the introduction of a burka ban in Denmark, sparked an angry response from Muslim organisations and MPs, who accused him of stoking Islamophobia for political gain.

The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, said Mr Johnson was “pandering to the far-right”, while Labour MP David Lammy branded him a “pound-shop Donald Trump”.