Following some ill-judged at best, malicious at worst comments this week, Boris Johnson could be punished for breaches of the Conservative code of conduct.
The former Foreign Secretary was outspoken when asked about the Burka, the headdress worn by Muslim women around the world.
In his Daily Telegraph column the Tory wrote that those wearing the Burka looked like ‘bank robbers’ or ‘letter boxes’, although he did go on to argue against a ban on the veil.
But Johnson’s comments were clearly in bad taste, and after receiving dozens of complaints an independent panel will judge whether further sanctions should be dished out to the Eton oaf.
As if his week couldn’t get any worse, BoJo has also been accused of breaking ministerial rules after producing the column for the Daily Telegraph, with a watchdog saying he legally should have waited for three months before taking up a new position after quitting as Foreign Sec.
Foot in Mouth and Out On His Ear?
The bottom line is that the investigation into Johnson’s writings is a serious one, with the Conservative party’s board having the power to dispel him from the organisation.
He has so far rejected calls to resign and at worst apologise, with critics suggesting he was deliberately ‘Islamophobic’ in a bid to appeal to hard-line right wing party members ahead of a potential coup against Theresa May.
The Conservative party code of conduct declares that Tories and elected party representatives must ‘lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance’ and at no point ‘use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others.’
If he is found guilty of the above in his column, the panel may decide to refer BoJo to the Conservative party board. They have the power to suspend his membership of the party, or expel him altogether.
Some of his most powerful critics include the founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Lord Sheikh, who has written to the panel demanding that ‘serious action’ be taken. The former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, has been quoted as saying that he would quit the party if Mr Johnson later became the PM.
Representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain also wrote an open letter, stating that Johnson’s writings would ‘inflame tensions in a way that makes it easier for bigots to justify hate crimes against us.’
If there is a silver lining for the former Foreign Secretary, it’s that he won’t face a criminal prosecution. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has confirmed that his words are not enough alone to constitute a hate crime.
“I spoke last night to my very experienced officers who deal with hate crime and, although we have not yet received any allegation of such a crime, I can tell you that my preliminary view having spoken to them is that what Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence. He did not commit a criminal offence.”
A hate crime, as far as the CPS is concerned, is defined as ‘….any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity or perceived transgender identity.’
‘Unacceptable’ Johnson in More Hot Water
The week from hell just got even more Satanic for Johnson, who has been referred to an independent watchdog who will query his ‘unacceptable’ decision not to seek employment advice prior to taking his position at the Daily Telegraph.
Former ministers are supposed to observe a three-month waiting period before seeking new employment; Johnson has barely served half of that after falling on his sword following some strong pro Brexit and anti-Theresa May comments.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments wrote a letter to Johnson stating that ‘….the committee considers it to be unacceptable that you signed a contract with The Telegraph and your appointment was announced before you had sought and obtained advice from the committee, as was incumbent on you leaving office under the government’s business appointment rules.’