Ex-Tory minister warns Boris Johnson about ‘ill-judged comments’

A leading Tory backbencher has accused Boris Johnson of making "really ill judged" comments in the past and told him to "think very carefully" about the impact his words have on women and ethnic minorities.

Caroline Nokes, chairwoman of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, has also warned Britain has become less tolerant with a "massive rise in hate crimes".

Ms Nokes, who was sacked as immigration minister by Mr Johnson when he became Prime Minister in July 2019, expressed concern at controversial comments he has made.

Mr Johnson drew sharp criticism for comparing women who wear burkas to letterboxes and bank robbers in a newspaper column after he quit as foreign secretary.

He has also been attacked for previously describing black people as "pickaninnies" with "water melon smiles" and referring to gay men as "bum boys".

Ms Nokes told The House: "I think that it is incumbent on the Prime Minister to think very carefully about what he is saying and the impact it could have on certain communities, on different ethnicities, on women.

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"I think his comments have been really ill judged, and the one that stands out to mind was the comment about letterboxes.

"And I have always held the view that it's not for any man to tell any woman what she should wear – advice that I would sometimes shout at my own father when he comments on what I'm wearing.

"But I think the Prime Minister's choice of words when grabbing headlines and being a newspaper columnist were unfortunate."

The Romsey and Southampton North MP described big increases in recorded hate crimes against ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and the disabled as "horrific".

"Do I think the country has become less tolerant? Yeah, I do.

"And I think it's incumbent upon government, it's incumbent upon the education system, it's incumbent upon all of us to be more tolerant, and to be more understanding.

"We're really good as a country at having some national outpourings of grief and upset over high profile things but actually that massive increase in hate crimes towards people from LGBTQ perspectives, from disabled people, from different ethnicities is just horrific."

The former Home Office minister said it was wrong to brand the Government department institutionally racist in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

"Do I recognise it as institutionally racist? No.

"Do I think it was an organisation that has massive challenges? Absolutely.

"I recognise that the Home Office was and is a department that had massive challenges, not least around resourcing.

"And I think that was one of my biggest concerns that we simply didn't have the numbers of people that we needed to process claims, particularly asylum claims, quickly and efficiently."

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Ms Nokes described Parliament as being like a boys' prep school and said her experiences there had turned her into a feminist.

"You arrive here, and it is likng in a boys' prep school, where the inmates haven't quite got to 13. And it was a real shock to my system.

"If Parliament wants to take credit for one thing that it has done for me over the course of the last 10 years, it is turning me into a feminist.

"Maybe I had just been lucky before coming here, but suddenly you sort of become confronted with some really outdated attitudes, and some really challenging behaviours.

"It's absolutely shocking isn't it that 61% of black and minority ethnic MPs are facing discrimination on the parliamentary estates or attitudes that are wholly inappropriate."

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