MPs call for Boris Johnson to be sacked after clearing up "dead bodies" in Libya comment

Catherine Neilan
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Conservative Party Conference 2017- Day Three
Boris claims he was talking about a legitimate problem (Source: Getty)

Theresa May is under renewed pressure to sack Boris Johnson today, after the foreign secretary appeared to make a glib reference to clearing "dead bodies" in Libya before it could become a tourist hot spot.

Johnson yesterday told a fringe event at the Conservative party conference that Libya was "an incredible country" with "real potential".

He added: "A group of UK business people, wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, which is where Gaddafi was actually captured. They have a brilliant vision to... turn it into the next Dubai. The only thing they've got to do is clear all the dead bodies...."

The audience laughed, and the event host quickly moved onto the next question, all of which seemed to suggest it was one of Johnson's characteristic quips. You can decide for yourself by watching a clip here (from about 23 minutes in).

Certainly that's how at least three of his colleagues have seen it.

South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen tweeted that his comments were "100% unacceptable from anyone, let alone foreign sec. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my party."

Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry agreed, tweeting: "Boris Johnson is embarrassing & PM should sack him".

Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, added: "Demeaning jokes about real people murdered in Libya would be crass even from a stand up; appalled to hear this from our Foreign Secretary."

However, Johnson has sought to clarify his remarks, tweeting: "The reality there is that the clearing of corpses of Daesh fighters has been made much more difficult by IEDs and booby traps."

This fresh row erupted on the eve of Theresa May's keynote speech, in which she will call for party unity and to stop being distracted by "our job security".

Earlier during the day, during his official speech to conference, Johnson heaped passionate praise on his boss, both for her election "win" and "her steadfastness in taking Britain forward".

After weeks of speculation about whether he would launch a leadership challenge, he told Manchester that the cabinet was united behind her and backed "every syllable" of May's Florence speech.

May's deputy Damien Green has this morning been forced to defend Johnson's comments during a series of broadcast interviews.

Green told Sky News: "We all have to be very careful about our use of language... particularly in relation to sensitive and difficult subjects like Libya", but insisted Johnson had been talking about "the complexity of the situation involved in Libya".

He refused to be drawn on whether Johnson should be sacked, although added: "Everyone, including Boris, needs to be careful in their use of language... [but] he has explained that he wasn't making a joke."

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