A Conservative peer has launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson, branding his career a “saga of moral emptiness”.
Lord Andrew Cooper, the former Downing Street aide to David Cameron, on Saturday accused Johnson of “casual racism (and) courting of fascism” following days of outrage sparked by Johnson saying woman who wear burkas look like “letter boxes”.
Lord Cooper wrote on Twitter: “The rottenness of Boris Johnson goes deeper even than his casual racism & his equally casual courting of fascism.
“He will advocate literally anything to play to the crowd of the moment. His career is a saga of moral emptiness & lies; pathetic, weak & needy; the opposite of strong.”
Cooper’s comments came as fellow Tory, Jacob Rees-Mogg, on Saturday suggested a Conservative Party investigation into Johnson was a “show trial” being used to stop him becoming the next party leader.
Rees-Mogg, writing in the Daily Telegraph, claimed Prime Minister Theresa May’s “personal rivalry” with the former foreign secretary was taking the “heat” off Labour who are engulfed in an anti-semitism row.
The backbencher wrote in a column for the newspaper that it was “hard to see” how Johnson had breached the party’s code and said he “entirely agrees” with his colleague on the issue.
He added that it would be “absurd” to call Johnson’s remarks “either victimising or harassing” .
Johnson’s remarks, also in a column for the Daily Telegraph, split the Tory party who received dozens of complaints. However, Johnson has received some support, including from a a leading Imam and Blackadder star, Rowan Atkinson.
The Telegraph told the BBC it had been “inundated” with letters in support of Johnson.
Johnson, who argued against a ban on full-face veils, has rejected calls – including from the PM and Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis – for him to apologise.
On Friday, the UK’s equalities watchdog said Johnson’s remarks were “inflammatory and divisive” and risked “vilifying Muslim women”.
An independent panel will look at the complaints made about Johnson and could refer him to the Conservative’s board who has the power to expel him.
A Downing Street source told the BBC the investigation was “not about individuals or personalities”.
In his column, Rees-Mogg claimed senior Tories have criticised Johnson because they are envious of his “many successes, popularity with voters and charisma”.
The North East Somerset MP wrote: “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.”