London: Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is facing a disciplinary investigation following a string of complaints that his comments about the burqa breached the Conservative Partys code of conduct, the media reported on Thursday.
Party sources told the Guardian daily that it received dozens of complaints after Johnson, in an article for the Daily Telegraph on Monday, compared women in burqas to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.
The complaints will be looked at by an independent panel which could refer Johnson to the party’s board, which has the power to expel him, the BBC reported.
The party declined to comment on the details of the probe. “The code of conduct process is strictly confidential,” said a Conservative Party spokesman.
According to the party’s code of conduct, MPs and other holders of public office should “not use their position to bully, abuse, victimize, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others” and “foster respect and tolerance”. It promised that complaints will be investigated “in a timely and confidential manner”.
Johnson, who is currently on holiday, has refused to apologize for his controversial descriptions despite calls to do so by the Tory party hierarchy. Prime Minister Theresa May has asked him to use more care in his language, according to the Guardian.
Party chairman Brandon Lewis will nominate two members of the panel, and because the complaint is about a member of Parliament, a third will be nominated by Graham Brady, the chairman of the party’s backbench 1922 committee.
Their first task will be to determine if Johnson’s behaviour was in breach of the party’s code or not.
The code of conduct added: “If appropriate, the complaint may then be referred by the Chairman to the Leader and/or to the Board of the Conservative Party, who shall take such action as they see fit.”
Critics accused Johnson of stoking “Islamophobia” to boost his Tory leadership ambitions but his supporters said he was speaking up for “liberal values”.
A watchdog which advises former ministers on taking new jobs ruled that Johnson broke ministerial rules by taking up his weekly column at the Telegraph without consulting it first.
The Conservative Party has been accused of not doing enough to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice in its ranks, despite an initiative to boost tolerance and diversity.