Boris Johnson calls Jeremy Corbyn ‘big girl’s blouse’ in fiery first PMQs
The PM also came under heavy criticism for previous comments about the burka.
Boris Johnson called Jeremy Corbyn a “great big girl’s blouse” and was described as a racist for his comments on Islamic dress as he faced a testing debut at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The exchanges came just hours after MPs voted to seize control of the order paper, raising the likelihood of a delay to Brexit and prompting the PM to threaten a general election.
As the two leaders debated at the despatch box, Mr Corbyn attacked the PM over his plans to prorogue Parliament, claiming Mr Johnson is “absolutely desperate to avoid scrutiny”.
In response, Mr Johnson threw up his arms and seemed to call out: “Call an election, you great big girl’s blouse.”
Shortly afterwards, Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi stood to condemn Mr Johnson for his “derogatory and racist remarks” in a column for the Daily Telegraph, in which he described some Muslim women as “letter boxes”.
An angry Mr Dhesi gestured around the Commons and asked: “Mr Speaker, if I decide to wear a turban, or you decide to wear a cross, or he decides to wear a kippah or a skull cap, or she decides to wear a hijab or burka, does that mean that it is open season for right honourable members of this House to make divisive and derogatory remarks about our appearance?
“For those of us who from a young age who have had to endure and face up to being called towel head or Taliban or coming from bongo-bongo land, we can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like ‘bank robbers’ and letter boxes’.”
After calling on the PM to apologise for the column, Mr Dhesi received a round of applause from many in the chamber.
— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) September 4, 2019
If you have ever experienced racism or discrimination, you can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by Muslim women, who were singled out by this divisive Prime Minister. It’s high time he apologised for his derogatory and racist remarks! 2/2 pic.twitter.com/R3goWBTh1s
Mr Johnson responded by saying his column had been a “strong, liberal defence… of everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country”.
He added: “I speak as somebody who is not only proud to have Muslim ancestors but to be related to Sikhs such as himself.”
Elsewhere in an often ill-tempered spell in the chamber, Mr Johnson called Mr Corbyn a “chlorinated chicken” and swore as he claimed Labour’s economic policy was both “shit” and “bust”.
Neither of those comments were deemed unparliamentary by Commons Speaker John Bercow, though the PM was censured for referring to Mr Corbyn by name.
Mr Johnson said the choice for the country is whether they want a deal done by “this Government, or that Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.”
Mr Bercow said: “We don’t name people in the chamber – people must observe the rules.”
He added: “I am simply and politely informing the Prime Minister of the very long-established procedure with which everybody, including the Prime Minister, must comply.
“That is the position. No doubts, no argument, no contradiction. End of the matter.”
There was further personal tension in the Spending Review debate which followed PMQs. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell aimed a jibe at the PM over a well-publicised row at the apartment he shared with partner Carrie Symonds.
As he responded to Sajid Javid’s statement, Mr McDonnell stopped and said: “Mr Speaker I believe the honourable member for Uxbridge (Mr Johnson) is shouting at me.
“Last time he was shouting at someone they had to call the police.”
Mr Johnson later faces a vote on whether to force a delay of Brexit to prevent Britain leaving without a deal.
The PM has promised to call an election if he loses the vote, though Mr Corbyn said his party would not support this until the opposition’s proposals to stop no-deal were passed as law.