- Boris Johnson tells members of Parliament that if they want to stop receiving death threats they need to back Brexit.
- MPs have reported a surge in death threats from members of the public since the Brexit vote.
- However, the prime minister told friends of the murdered MP Jo Cox, that the best way to honour her death and prevent further death threats would be to deliver his plans to leave the EU.
- He accused his opponents of “surrender” and dismissed claims that his language was putting the lives of pro-European politicians at risk.
- Opposition and Conservative politicians, and Cox’s husband Brendan, condemned the prime minister’s comments.
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Boris Johnson has triggered a fresh wave of outrage after telling friends of the murdered member of Parliament Jo Cox to back Brexit, if they want to stop receiving death threats.
The pro-European Labour MP Cox was murdered on the streets of her constituency during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 by a man shouting “Britain first.” He later told the court his name was “death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
However, Johnson on Wednesday evening told MPs that the best way to honour Cox’s memory and stop the growing number of death threats received from the public was to “get Brexit done.”
The prime minister used his first appearance in the House of Commons since the Supreme Court ruled that his decision to shut down Parliament was illegal, to accuse his opponents of signing up to a “surrender bill” compelling the United Kingdom to delay Brexit.
Pushed by Cox’s successor as Batley and Spen MP, Tracey Brabin, to stop accusing his opponents of “surrender” and “betrayal,” Johnson replied that “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.”
Several of Cox’s former colleagues walked out in anger as the House of Commons descended into the most heated scenes seen in the chamber in living memory.
In an emotional speech Labour MP Paula Sheriff, who was a close friend of Cox, told Johnson he should be “ashamed” of his language and warned him that he was putting the lives of her and her colleagues at risk.
Johnson dismissed her comments as “humbug.”
Watch Boris Johnson dismiss Paula Sheriff’s emotional plea
—Ashley Cowburn (@ashcowburn) September 25, 2019
Asked again to tone down his rhetoric in order to prevent a repeat of what happened to Cox, Johnson replied that “the best way to ensure that every Parliamentarian is properly safe and we dial down the current anxiety in this country is to get Brexit done.”
Johnson’s comments led to a wave of outrage among both opposition and Conservative politicians.
The former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve labeled Johnson a “pathological liar” with “no moral compass of any kind.”
Johnson’s former chief of staff when he was Mayor of London, Nick Boles, tweeted that “Boris Johnson will go down in history as one of the most callous and reckless human beings ever to occupy No 10 Downing St.”
Conservative MP Stephen Crabb said that Johnson “has a duty as Prime Minister to try to bring unity to our country and reduce the level of poison in our politics,” adding that he was “shocked by the way he responded to remarks about Jo Cox.”
Even Johnson’s Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan appeared to criticise the PM, tweeting that “we all need to remind ourselves of the effect of everything we say on those watching us.”
—Nicky Morgan MP (@NickyMorgan01) September 25, 2019
Cox’s husband Brendan tweeted that he “[feels] a bit sick at Jo’s name being used in this way.”
—Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) September 25, 2019
During the Commons debate, a number of MPs revealed details of threats sent to themselves and their loved ones.
Former minister Anna Soubry was on the verge of tears when she said that her mother and her partner had received threats to their safety.
Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, revealed that she had reported to the Police a threat to her son that very day.
Swinson later described Johnson’s remarks as “sickening” and called on him to apologise immediately.