The sister of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned his rhetoric as “tasteless” and “reprehensible” as he faced a storm about his language in the UK Parliament.
Rachel Johnson said she did not recognize the version of her brother that spoke in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.
Boris Johnson faced sharp criticism for his language as he addressed Members of Parliament on Wednesday, their first day back after his controversial suspension was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.
Johnson repeatedly denounced legislation that would force him to delay Brexit if he can’t agree a deal with the EU, calling it a “surrender bill.” And he dismissed as “humbug” the concerns of an MP who asked him to moderate his language given the politically motivated murder three years ago of a Labour lawmaker, Jo Cox.
The Prime Minister provoked particular anger when he urged lawmakers to honor Cox’s memory by backing the government on Brexit. (Cox was a supporter of staying in the European Union.)
“My brother is using words like ‘surrender’ and ‘capitulation’ as if the people standing in the way of the blessed will of the people, as defined by the 17.4 million votes in 2016, should be hung, drawn, quartered, tarred, and feathered,” Rachel Johnson told Sky News. “I think that is highly reprehensible.”
“I think it was particularly tasteless for those who are grieving a mother, MP and friend to say the best way to honor her memory is to deliver the thing she and her family campaigned against – Brexit,” she added.
Rachel Johnson has been a critic of Brexit, and stood as a candidate for the pro-EU rebel bloc The Independent Group for Change at this year’s European elections. She is not the first member of the Prime Minister’s family to voice dissent – their brother, Jo, resigned from the government earlier this month, citing family divisions.
Later on Thursday, the opposition Labour MP Jess Phillips said a man had been arrested after calling her a “fascist” and trying to “kick the door” of her constituency office.
Phillips has spoken frequently about abuse she has suffered as an MP, and criticized Johnson about his rhetoric in Parliament earlier Thursday. “We all get abuse, and I’ve had a death threat this week that literally quoted the Prime Minister and used the Prime Minister’s name and words in a death threat that was delivered to my staff,” she told lawmakers.
Opening parliamentary proceedings on Thursday, Speaker John Bercow denounced the previous evening’s scenes as “toxic” and pleaded for a calmer atmosphere.
“I think there is a widespread sense across the House and beyond that yesterday, the House did itself no credit,” he said. “There was an atmosphere in the chamber worse than any I’ve known in my 22 years in the House. On both sides, passions were inflamed, angry words were uttered. The culture was toxic,” he added.