Johnson tried to justify his racist, Islamophobic and homophobic comments. It completely backfired.

Audeince member and Boris Johnson
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

On 22 November, the leaders of the UK’s main political parties took part in BBC’s Question Time Leaders’ Special in Sheffield. Each of the four leaders faced questions from a live studio audience.

And yet again – on the topic of racism and sexism – Boris Johnson showed why he’s wholly unfit to be prime minister.

Audience question

One member of the audience, Olive Enokido-Lineham, put Johnson’s racist record to him by asking:

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Racist rhetoric in this country is completely rife. Will you admit that you have personally contributed to this and say the words ‘I’m sorry’?

But Johnson refused. And this wasn’t the first time he’s refused to say “I’m sorry”.

Pathetic response

Johnson claimed Enokido-Lineham was “referring to” just one “particular article” he wrote that was derogatory and Islamophobic. But as host Fiona Bruce said, “in fairness, there’s a few articles”. Bruce reminded Johnson of the racist and homophobic articles he wrote insulting Black people, Muslim women, and gay people.

But instead of apologising, Johnson tried to justify his vile words, saying:

if you go through all my articles with a fine tooth comb… and take out individual phrases there is no doubt that you can find things that can be made to seem offensive.

Words are dangerous

But even if it had been just that article, it still sparked a high rise in Islamophobic incidents in the UK:

And few people in the audience bought Johnson’s pathetic ‘defence’. Nor did those watching, including Labour’s David Lammy:

Then he made it worse…

Shockingly, Johnson claimed he was actually standing up for women:

What I was really doing was mounting a strong liberal defence of the right of women in this country to wear what they choose.

The audience groaned in disapproval. Another member of the audience responded to Johnson’s alleged defence of the right of women, saying:

you just talk about defending freedoms of women, you don’t do that by taking down a religious minority, you don’t do that by offending Muslim women.

The Tories sorry record

Johnson also claimed the Conservative Party has:

zero tolerance of Islamophobia… and people are asked to stand down if they’re guilty of Islamophobia or any other prejudice or any other hate speech.

This is just straightforward Orwellian. The Tories reinstated Tory councillor David Abbott in time for this year’s local elections, despite him posting Islamaphobic comments online. And he doesn’t appear to have apologised.

One academic researcher described Islamophobia in the Tory party as an “epidemic”. And it has still failed to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia within the party. Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, meanwhile, has shown that her party has a problem with Islamophobia and that its members have a track record of “engaging in or endorsing Islamophobic sentiments or conduct”.

The contrast

Johnson’s racist position stands in stark contrast with the leadership of the Labour Party. Despite the smears, Jeremy Corbyn is emphatically not antisemitic. And both Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell campaigned strongly against apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s. Labour has also put forward progressive policies to address injustice, inequality, and women’s rights.

So on 12 December, the public can choose between Johnson and his shameful bigotry or, someone who truly stands up for, and defends, the rights of British people.

Featured image via Twitter – Jorge Martin

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