Newsnight guests react in horror as Tory Brexiteer tells concerned MPs to ‘think of strain Boris Johnson is under’
‘I’m feeling sorry for everybody in politics tonight’
MPs recoiled in horror on Newsnight after Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin called on those worried that Boris Johnson’s inflammatory language was being used in violent death threats to “think of the strain the prime minister is under”.
Mr Jenkin was confronted with the prime minister’s claim that the best way to honour the memory of the assassinated remain-supporting MP Jo Cox was to “get Brexit done” – and his dismissal of concerns from female MPs that his divisive language was making them unsafe.
However the MP shrugged off the idea he should feel ashamed of Mr Johnson’s response to his colleague’s fears.
“Well, think of the strain the prime minister is under as much as anybody else in the House of Commons in these circumstances”, he said.
Liberal democrat Layla Moran could be seen gasping and placing her head in her hands, while Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner scowled towards former Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach.
Asked if he was feeling sorry for the prime minister, Mr Jenkin added “I’m feeling sorry for everybody in politics tonight”.
It comes after the prime minister described concerns his language was spurring on division between parliament and the people as “humbug”, a response to Paula Sheriff’s warning that death threats received by MP’s “often quote his words – ‘surrender act’, ‘betrayal,’ ‘traitor’”.
Mr Jenkin said it was “not a word I would have used personally”, adding, “But I think everybody is under a very great deal of strain”.
Jo Cox was stabbed and shot to death in the streets of her Batley and Spen constituency as she campaigned for the Labour Party in 2016.
When her assailant Thomas Mair was asked to give his name at court proceedings over the assassination of the MP, he said “my name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
Politicians have grown increasingly concerned over death threats sent to the House of Commons – including one recently sent to MP Jess Phillips that read: “It was rather prophetic that Boris Johnson should say ‘I would rather be found dead in a ditch’. That is what will happen to those who do not deliver Brexit”.