Defenders of Boris Johnson make a bid to shift the blame to Brandon Lewis
The Tory chairman is accused of turning a 'minor story' into a 'five-day frenzy of nonsense'.
Who is to blame for a quiet week in recess being dominated by a blazing row over Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women who wear the burka?
The obvious answer is Boris Johnson. But as the row continues to rumble on, some Tory MPs are now pointing elsewhere.
According to certain Boris-backing Tory MPs, party chairman Brandon Lewis committed the crime of calling for Johnson to apologise on Twitter without consulting Downing Street first.
“This is a complete own goal by Brandon Lewis. To anyone objective, it looks like a crude and unprincipled kneecap job on the favourite to succeed Theresa May,” one Tory MP told the Telegraph.
"In the process he has managed to turn a minor story into a five-day frenzy of virtue signalling nonsense. Brandon needs to close this down or he won't last as party chairman."
Meanwhile, Nadine Dorries has been letting rip on a Tory MP WhatsApp group.
“The issue is the announcement of an inquiry which was released via a press release from CCHQ. It’s OK for us to have private chats with Brandon and James, but, that’s not how politics works. The party has f***** up big time and one of the worst f***ups has been the prime minister appearing on national TV calling for Boris to apologise. That went down really badly, almost as badly as Brandon having done the same," she wrote. Her message and others were promptly leaked to the Guido Fawkes website.
The attempt to pin the blame for row on Lewis is unlikely to go down well with Tory MPs such as Sayeeda Warsi who believe that Johnson knew exactly what he was up to when he wrote in The Telegraph that wearers of the niqab "look like letterboxes" and tend to resemble "a bank robber".
“I refuse to accept that these phrases were some kind of mistake, and the offence inadvertent. Johnson is too intelligent and too calculating for that. No, this was all quite deliberate,” the former Tory co-chair wrote earlier this week.
But it's becoming insreasingly clear that many Tory MPs are privately fuming about the way in which the party has handled Johnson's alleged misdemeanours. Also on WhatsApp, Zac Goldsmith, praised an article by one of Johnson’s former deputy mayors, defending him against his critics.
“Brilliant piece by Munira Mirza on the hypocrisy, dishonesty and utter stupidity surrounding the Boris burka nonsense,” he wrote. “What on earth is the party doing?!"