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BORIS JOHNSON faced a storm of condemnation today after making a “disgusting” joke that Britain could become the “Saudi Arabia of penal policy.”
Opposition politicians said that the Prime Minister had reached a new low after footage emerged of him making the comment at a Tory Party fundraiser last week.
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s most viciously repressive regimes. Capital punishment – carried out by beheading – remains in force and homosexuality is punishable by death or other inhumane sentences such as whippings and chemical castration.
The Business Insider website, which obtained the video, said that Mr Johnson had made the remark in front of some 300 people at the InterContinental hotel on Park Lane, central London.
Kicking off his speech, the PM said: “In the immortal words of Priti Patel … or some other hard-line home secretary, addressing the inmates of one of our larger prisons: It’s fantastic to see so many of you here.”
Mr Johnson went on to make the offensive comment when discussing Britain’s work on renewable energy.
“I said last year we’re the Saudi Arabia of wind. Probably the Saudi Arabia of penal policy, too, under our wonderful Home Secretary,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Ms Patel has been strongly criticised by opposition MPs and campaigners after legislating to criminalise asylum-seekers who arrive in Britain by “unofficial routes,” continuing deportation flights during the Covid-19 pandemic and attempting to clamp down on the right to protest.
Denouncing the PM’s remark, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Saudi Arabia beheads its own citizens, tortures activists exercising their democratic rights and kills homosexuals.
“This is disgusting. As ever with Boris Johnson, behind closed doors, the mask slips and we see what he really thinks.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said that the comment marks a new low, even for Mr Johnson.
“He may admire his pals in the Saudi dictatorship, but with this kind of humour, the joke is on all of us,” he said.
As record numbers of migrants continue to cross the English Channel, Ms Patel’s job was thought to be in peril as the PM reshuffled his Cabinet today, but she is currently still in post.
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