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.
One member of the audience, Olive Enokido-Lineham, put Johnson’s racist record to him by asking:
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’?
— Momentum (@PeoplesMomentum) November 22, 2019
But Johnson refused. And this wasn’t the first time he’s refused to say “I’m sorry”.
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:
Wow! This is troubling. Our data shows a rise of 375% of incidents reported by people who have been called 'letterboxes' following Johnson's column. With leadership comes responsibility, and we need more leadership for all communities in the coming days. #No2H8 https://t.co/vbXZethLKl
— TellMAMAUK (@TellMamaUK) November 23, 2019
And few people in the audience bought Johnson’s pathetic ‘defence’. Nor did those watching, including Labour’s David Lammy:
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) November 23, 2019
#BBCQuestionTime Boris Johnson completely unable to say he's sorry for the racist remarks he's made… racism is inherent in the ruling class
“Racist rhetoric in this country is rife, will you admit you have personally contributed to this?”
— Jorge Martin (@marxistJorge) November 22, 2019
Johnson has literally been ripped 'a new one'!
If the BBC have done one thing right in its coverage it's this 30 minute session with Boris Johnson.
Well done to the audience !✊🏼
— Cllr Mas Patel 🌹 #RegisterToVote (@maspatel01) November 22, 2019
Boris Johnson refused to apologise for comparing Muslim women to "letterboxes" and "bank robbers", and gay people to "tank topped bum boys".
If you want this man to remain Prime Minister, just don't pretend you care about LGBTQ people or racism. You don't. #BBCQT
— Owen REGISTER TO VOTE Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) November 22, 2019
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”.
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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