Jess Phillips calls out Boris Johnson on having a 'strategy to divide'

PUBLISHED: 13:24 26 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:28 26 September 2019

Jess Phillips MP has accused Boris Johnson of having a deliberately divisive strategy in his rhetoric. Picture: UK Parliament

Jess Phillips MP has accused Boris Johnson of having a deliberately divisive strategy in his rhetoric. Picture: UK Parliament

UK Parliament

MP Jess Phillips has accused Boris Johnson's government of having a "tested and workshopped" political strategy designed to "inflame hatred".

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In an urgent question the MP for Birmingham Yardley was responding to previous tempestuous scenes in the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson had caused a furore by dismissing MPs' fears of far-right violence following the murder of Jo Cox as "humbug", and went even further to say that the "best way" to honour the MP was to "get Brexit done".

WATCH: Outrage as Boris Johnson claims 'best way to honour Jo Cox' is to 'get Brexit done'

Phillips stood up in the House of Commons to ask if the prime minister would reflect on his words.

Responding on Johnson's behalf, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office Kevin Foster outlined the government's continuing security arrangements for MPs, but Phillips pointed out this hadn't answered her question.

In her response she accused the government of not only supporting inflammatory rhetoric but of having enshrined it as a "clear strategy to divide".

She added that she had received a further death threat directly quoting Johnson's words, but emphasised this was not her message today.

WATCH: Labour MP told she would be found 'dead in a ditch' if she does not deliver Brexit

She said: "What I want to look at today ... is when there is a clear strategy to divide.

"The use of language yesterday and over the past few weeks, such as the 'Surrender bill', such as invoking the war, such as talking about betrayal and treachery.

"It has clearly been tested and workshopped and worked up and it is entirely designed to inflame hatred and division.

"I get it. It works. It is working."

She implied that in adopting such a strategy, Boris Johnson does not have "a soul" and that there is no sincerity in his actions.

Speaking of Jo Cox, who had been a close friend, she added: "When I hear of my friend's murder and the way that it has made me and my colleagues feel and feel scared described as "humbug" I actually don't feel anger towards the prime minister.

"I feel pity for those of you who still have to toe his line.

"You - the people opposite - know how appalling it was to describe the murder of my friend as mere humbug."

There was a murmur of disagreement at this from the Tory bench, who may have felt that this characterisation of Johnson's reaction was an exaggeration.

She asked the prime minister to recognise that an apology would not make him unpopular with the electorate.

"The bravest, strongest thing to say is 'sorry'," she said.

"It will make him look good. It will not upset the people who want Brexit in this country if he acts for once like a statesman."

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