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Boris Johnson tops first ballot in Tory leadership contest, despite being accused of Islamophobia

People hold banners during a protest, organized by Stand Up To Racism platform, against former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after his Islamaphobic article, which includes hate crime on women those who wear niqab or burqa, in front of the contact office of Conservative Party in London, United Kingdom on 9 August 2018. [Tayfun Salcı - Anadolu Agency]
People hold banners during a protest, organized by Stand Up To Racism platform, against former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after his Islamaphobic article, which includes hate crime on women those who wear niqab or burqa, in front of the contact office of Conservative Party in London, United Kingdom on 9 August 2018. [Tayfun Salcı - Anadolu Agency]

The Conservative Party’s Boris Johnson has received the highest number of votes in the first ballot to select who will lead the party and succeed Theresa May as the next prime minister of the UK.

Whilst Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey have been knocked out of the race, Johnson has secured 114 votes which puts him far ahead of the remaining seven candidates. Jeremy Hunt, who in 2005 co-authored a book calling for the privatisation of the NHS and later went on to become Health Secretary, came second with 43 votes.

During his tenure as Foreign Minister from 2016 to 2018 and his eight-year term as London Mayor, Johnson proved to be a controversial figure in British politics and made a number of offensive comments about the Middle East.

When in 2016 details of his earnings were made public, observers were shocked to find out he earnt £266,667 a year for a Telegraph column which he used to regularly put forward his thoughts on the region.

When Syria’s Bashir Al-Assad recaptured the UNESCO site of Palmyra from Daesh in 2016, he wrote that he could not conceal his elation that the Syrian army was back in control. Al-Assad and his regime have killed thousands more civilians than Daesh and have used rape and torture as a weapon of war.

Read: Syria forces attack Turkish outpost, break Idlib ceasefire

Johnson voted for the war in Iraq, for intervention in Libya, and against a 2016 proposal for the UK to take in 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian minors warning that “we must not become a magnet or a pole of attraction for economic rights.”

He faced calls to resign following comments he made in 2017, that the Libyan city of Sirte could be the next Dubai once they’ve cleared away the dead bodies.

Last year he was accused of Islamophobia after commenting that Muslim women who wore the burka “look like letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. Amidst the backlash his sister wrote in the Daily Mail that he did not go far enough in his comments.

On Radio 4 this morning Priti Patel, who was forced to resign as international development secretary in 2017 after it was revealed she was holding secret meetings with Israeli officials including Benjamin Netanyahu, defended Johnson.

She said his comments regarding the burka were “not to mock” them but instead “a clear defence of women’s rights to wear whatever they like.”

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