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'Never intended to cause hurt or pain': Johnson refuses to apologise for 'racist rhetoric'

The UK’s main political party leaders faced tough questioning on BBC’s Question Time this evening.

Boris Johnson during the BBC's Question Time this evening.
Boris Johnson during the BBC's Question Time this evening.
Image: Press Association Images

BORIS JOHNSON HAS been challenged over “racist rhetoric” and trustworthiness during a televised questioning of UK political party leaders this evening. 

The Prime Minister refused to apologise over his use of language and defended Tory austerity during a special episode of BBC’s Question Time this evening. 

In their campaign for the 12 December General Election, the leaders of the four main political parties were quizzed for half-an-hour apiece during the programme. The highest levels of groaning and jeering were reserved for the frontrunners in the Sheffield studio.

Johnson was asked to apologise and admit he had personally contributed to “racist rhetoric” during his journalistic work.

The host Fiona Bruce challenged the Prime Minister for comparing veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes”, referring to “watermelon smiles” and “flag-waving piccaninnies” and to “tank-topped bum boys”.

Johnson said: “I have written many millions of words in my life as a journalist and I have… genuinely never intended to cause hurt or pain to anybody and that is my intention.

“What I will say because I think you are referring to a particular article of a year or so ago,” he said. 

The audience scoffed after Johnson continued: “If you go through all my articles with a fine-tooth comb and take out individual phrases, there is no doubt that you can find things that can be made to seem offensive and of course I understand that.”

Earlier during the programme, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to adopt a “neutral stance” in another EU referendum under the party. He was questions over fears for businesses, anti-Semitism and freedom of speech. 

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon said she would never put a Conservative prime minister into power – saying she could “not in good conscience” ever put Boris Johnson into Number 10.

Sturgeon  said she doesn’t believe Scottish independence from the UK is “turning our back” on the close ties between the nations. 

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson ruled out any coalition between her party and the Conservatives, saying the party was “off with Nigel Farage” and “so far off the chart”. She previously said the party would not put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

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