Boris Johnson condemned by his sister over 'highly reprehensible' comments about murdered MP
The prime minister sparked anger in the House of Commons on Wednesday when he said the best way to honour the memory of Ms Cox – a Remain campaigner who was killed by a right-winger shouting “Britain first” – was to “get Brexit done”.
Ms Cox’s husband Brendan said the comments made him “a bit sick” and Labour MP Jess Phllips called a debate in the Commons to denounce the PM’s “appalling” remarks and demand an apology.
Ms Phillips told the Commons that Mr Johnson was following a “tested and work-shopped” strategy to whip up hatred and division by using inflammatory language accusing his opponents of “surrender” to Brussels.
Rachel Johnson – a Remain supporter who stood as a Change UK candidate in the European elections – told Sky News she shared concerns about the consequences of her brother’s words.
“It is particularly tasteless for those who are grieving a mother, an MP, a friend, to say that the best way to honour her memory is to deliver the thing which she and her family campaigned against,” said Ms Johnson.
“I think it is a very tasteless way of referring to the memory of a murdered MP – murdered by somebody who said ‘Britain first’ and was obviously of the far right tendency, which we know will have been being whipped up by this sort of language.
“My brother using words like ‘surrender’ and ‘capitulation’, as if the people who are standing in the way of the blessed will of the people – as defined by 17.4 million voters in 2016 – should be hung, drawn, quartered, tarred and feathered, I think that is highly reprehensible language to use.”
Ms Johnson said her brother was using the despatch box as a “bully pulpit” and she did not recognise the figure in the Commons as the man she knew from their private life.
She told BBC Radio 4’ s World at One: “I love him very much and he is a different person in the Commons.
“It raises the question, is it a deliberate strategy to raise the tempo so much that people feel they have had their democracy stolen or had the vote betrayed and it whips up the base into believing that only if they cleave to him and the strong-man rhetoric, they will get what they want.”
Ms Johnson suggested that her brother’s approach might be influenced by his adviser Dominic Cummings.
“It could be Dominic Cummings advising the prime minister to be extremely aggressive and to face down opposition from all sides of the establishment in order to secure his position as the tribune of the people,” she said.
“It could be coming from my brother myself, who is obviously thoroughly enjoying being prime minister. It could be from people who have invested billions in shorting the pound, shorting the country, in expectation of a no-deal Brexit. We don’t know.”
Ms Phillips told the House of Commons that Mr Johnson’s confrontational approach was effective.
“The use of language yesterday and over the past few weeks such as the surrender bill, such as invoking the war, such as betrayal and treachery, it has clearly been tested, and work-shopped and worked up and entirely designed to inflame hatred and division,” said the Birmingham Yardley MP.
“I get it, it works, it is working.”
She continued: “It is not sincere, it is totally planned, it is completely and utterly a strategy designed by somebody to harm and cause hatred in our country.”
But a senior government source denied that Mr Johnson was deliberately trying to stoke division.
“A lot of people here don’t want to face the fundamentals of their environment,” said the source.
“Temperatures are getting particularly extreme now because we are trying to make everyone face reality.
“If you have spent three years trying to avoid facing reality and then you have got to face reality, it is inevitably rather an uncomfortable process.”