The PM and her allies have bungled the burqa row
When, six days ago, an article by Boris Johnson appeared suggesting that burqa-wearing Muslim women “choose to go around looking like letter boxes” and turn up “looking like a bank robber”, there was only one sensible thing for Theresa May and her allies to do. It was, purely and simply, to ignore it. Instead, the prime minister called on the former foreign secretary to apologise, as did Brandon Lewis, the party chairman. The Tory party then launched a disciplinary investigation.
What were they thinking of? By drawing attention to Mr Johnson’s not-very-good jokes — whatever the comedian Rowan Atkinson may have thought of them — the prime minister and her team made the challenge of maintaining good relations with Britain’s Muslim community harder, not easier. With one bound they brought Jeremy Corbyn relief from his battle, which he is so far losing badly, to demonstrate that Labour under his leadership does not have a serious anti-semitism problem. It is folly for the Tories to get involved in identity politics and make life easier for Labour.
Behind the veil, Boris Johnson sees a way to No 10
His enemies thought he was finished but Burqagate is a cold calculation
About a month ago, I was told confidently by two Conservative cabinet ministers that Boris was “over, dead in the water” in terms of his ambition to lead the party and become prime minister. This view now looks to have been premature. The row over burqas, manufactured by the man himself, has put Boris back in the headlines and back in the running.
Burqagate seems like a classic case of something Boris is famous for: having his cake and eating it. On the face of it, he wrote a punchy article making a persuasive liberal argument against banning the burqa and niqab, which obscure the face, on the grounds that free-born grown-up women should be able to wear what they like. However, by slipping in quips about women who wear those garments resembling “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”, he chimed with a very different tribe.
The burqa brouhaha – a calculated step on Boris’s march to the top
The Tory politician’s comments on Muslim women were no gaffe – they were made quite knowingly
When I met Boris Johnson in the full pomp of our early 20s, he was president of the Oxford Union debating society and had launched a new publication solemnly entitled Debate, to promote his upcoming events. I was interviewing him for the student newspaper (one of us is still basically in the same job). My clumsy response on seeing his prospectus was: “Is that all you’ve got?”
Years later, he still joked about the slight. A subsequent career as a leading conservative commentator, adventurous rake, London mayor, Leave campaigner, foreign secretary and man who would be leader demonstrates my error in underestimating his unwavering determination to capture and stay in the spotlight. But his sensitivity also illustrates a fear of being sidelined or falling off the success curve.