‘Show Trial’: Establishment Attacks BoJo Because He’s a Future Leadership Contender, Says Rees-Mogg

May BoJo
Jack Hill/Getty/AFP/Justin Tallis

Jacob Rees-Mogg has attacked the Tory Party establishment for putting Boris Johnson through a “show trial” for his comments on the burqa, saying that it is motivated by “envy” because the Brexiteer is a strong contender to be the next Prime Minister.

The popular Conservative backbench MP wrote in The Telegraph that “because of his many successes, popularity with voters and charisma”, Mr Johnson is the subject of “envy” in the party, likely because he is hotly tipped be the next leader of the Tory Party and to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister.

As such, aside from attracting the ire of what he terms “intolerant liberals” over his comments where he compared the appearance of women wearing the burqa to “letterboxes” and “robbers”, Mr Johnson had drawn disproportionate criticism from the establishment faction within his own party.

He referenced that Europhile and Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke had once, when he was a cabinet minister, referred to the burqa as a “kind of bag”, remarking that “This makes the howls of outrage suspect and the motivations dubious.

“Why would senior Conservatives want to attack so popular a figure for saying something that had been said before, and which they had not objected to?”

Could it be that there is a nervousness that a once and probably future leadership contender is becoming too popular and needs to be stopped? This may explain the attempt to use the Conservative Party’s disciplinary procedures, but it has been handled so ham-fistedly that it brings only sympathy and support for Mr Johnson,” Mr Rees-Mogg added.

The controversy over the comments, which has resulted in the party launching an initial investigation to determine if the former foreign secretary had breached the Conservatives’ code of conduct, appears to be a proxy war over Brexit with MPs’ positions drawn along Leave/Remain lines.

Mr Johnson resigned from the Cabinet as foreign secretary over Mrs May’s ultra-soft Brexit proposals, and the Prime Minister and party chairman Brandon Lewis (who both voted Remain in the June 2016 referendum) immediately called for the Brexiteer to apologise for the comments made in an opinion piece in The Telegraph where he had defended Muslim women’s legal right to wear the niqab or burqa.

“Unfortunately, both the chairman, Brandon Lewis, and the leader, Theresa May, have prejudged the issue by calling for Boris to apologise, which is arguably a breach of the Code itself. No fair system allows a critic to turn into both prosecutor and judge, so the chairman has embarrassingly had to stand aside and the leader must also excuse herself from any role in this inquiry,” Mr Rees-Mogg added.

The Party is likely to further split on the issue, should Mr Johnson’s case be elevated to a panel, with senior Tory Brexiteers threatening “civil war” if the investigation goes ahead.

Meanwhile, a Sky News poll taken earlier in the week found that not only did voters in the majority say that Mr Johnson should not apologise and agreed with the comments, but went farther than both Mr Johnson and Mr Rees-Mogg by saying that the Islamic modesty garments, which obscure the entire face leaving only the eyes visible, should be banned in public in the UK as they have recently in Denmark.

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