Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of using the same kind of “offensive, dangerous and inflammatory language” that led to MP Jo Cox’s murder in 2016. And his response has caused further outrage.
In scenes that have been described as “brutal” and “mad” by political commentators, Boris Johnson addressed the House of Commons yesterday (25 September) for the first time since his decision to suspend parliament was found to be unlawful. With zero intention of stepping down as Prime Minister, Johnson gave no apology and said the supreme court’s decision was “wrong”. As you can imagine, it caused uproar from the opposition – and it didn’t stop there.
Labour MP Paula Sheriff told the PM that the toxic language he has used throughout the Brexit fiasco has led to dangerous behaviour. In fact, she has been at the receiving end of a campaign of hate, including swastikas being left at her office.
Sheriff asked the PM to not use “offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation” after he described the Brexit deal as the “Surrender Act”. She also referred to her former colleague Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far right extremist in the run up to the Brexit referendum.
“I genuinely do not seek to stifle robust debate but this evening the Prime Minister has continually used pejorative language to describe an Act of Parliament passed by this House and I’m sure that you would agree Mr Speaker that we should not resort to using offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation which we do not like,” Sherrif said.
“And we stand here, Mr Speaker, under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day and let me tell the Prime Minister that they often quote his words, surrender act, betrayal, traitor and I for one am sick of it. We must moderate our language and it has to come from the Prime Minister first, so I would be interested in hearing his opinion he should be absolutely ashamed of himself.”
Boris’ reply to this very reasonable and accurate assertion?
“I have to say, Mr Speaker, I have never heard so much humbug in my life.”
When Tracey Brabin, the MP who replaced Cox as MP for Batley and Spen, called out the PM, he added: ‘The best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox and indeed the best way to bring this country together would be – I think – to get Brexit done.
“And I absolutely do and I think that it is the continuing inability of this Parliament to get Brexit done that is causing the anxiety and the ill-feeling that is now rampant in our country. get it done and we will solve the problem.”
Twitter has been alight with outrage and fury at the comments made by Johnson.
BBC Politics correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, Labour MP Jess Phillips, writer Jack Monroe, writer Bella Mackie, MP Yvette Cooper and journalist Kirsty Strickland are just a handful of people who shared their responses on Twitter.
Kuenssberg expressed her shock at what happened in the Commons, calling it “brutal” and “mad”.
Phillips recalled Johnson’s “I’d rather be dead in a ditch than not deliver Brexit” comments and how they were used in a death threat against her. She also said he has surrendered his morality.
Monroe is one of the many people who have urged people to support the Jo Cox Foundation.
Mackie described the PM as ” a cruel, stupid monster” and advised him to “do one good thing in your life and resign”.
Cooper said Johnson uses language that is designed to “escalate tension, division and hate”.
And Strickland asserted that Johnson “ramps up the rhetoric” that led to Cox’s murder.
Whatever your stance on Brexit: I think we can all agree that our Prime Minister’s refusal to accept the dangerous affects of inflammatory language when talking about such contentious policies is a cause for serious concern. We literally have the devastating case of Cox’s murder to prove this.