Boris Johnson says he was ‘model of restraint’ in language row
Prime minister rejects accusations he was dismissive of MP abuse
Boris Johnson says he has been “the model of restraint” in the language he has used in the Brexit debate.
The prime minister had been criticised for dismissing abuse concerns of a female MP as “humbug” during a Commons debate last week.
In an interview with the BBC, Johnson said there had been a “misunderstanding” over his response, and he only intended to reject the suggestion that he had inspired aggression.
The Labour MP Paula Sheriff said threats made against her and other MPs used “dangerous” language, referring to “surrender” and “betrayal”. She also drew a connection between the threats and the 2016 murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, to which Johnson said: “I've never heard such humbug in all my life.”
Johnson told the BBC that the threats were “deplorable”, but defended his own language, adding that he didn’t regret using the word “surrender” to describe the Benn Act, the law requiring him to ask the EU for a Brexit extension.
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He described using the word “surrender” as a “legitimate” and “tried and tested” metaphor, says Sky News.
“Military metaphors are old, standard, Parliamentary terms,” he said. “I think everybody should calm down.”
But Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said Johnson sought to “inflame and divide our country”.
“To suggest in any way that we are surrendering and not wanting to do the best by our country is really damaging, especially as a direct strategy from Number 10. I think he should be utterly ashamed of himself,” she said.
“We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to dial down that language and act responsibly.”
Labour’s Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, added that Johnson’s “take no prisoners” approach was “unnerving people” and said the Conservative party conference - which started on Sunday - “needs to be a turning point”.
The Jo Cox Foundation, established in memory of the murdered MP, has asked political parties to create a code of conduct in order to help protect MPs.
Boris Johnson had suggested that the best way to honour Cox, who campaigned to remain in the EU, was to “get Brexit done”, says the BBC.
Her husband, Brendan Cox, has said he was “shocked” by the language used in the debate.