1. ITV Report

Rowan Atkinson backs Boris Johnson in burka row

Boris Johnson continues to face backlash in the burka row. Credit: PA

The star of Blackadder and Mr Bean has given his backing to Boris Johnson over the burka row, which has landed the foreign secretary in potential trouble with his own party.

Rowan Atkinson said Johnson had made a "pretty good" joke when he said women wearing face-veils looked like letterboxes, and insisted "no apology" was needed.

In a letter to The Times, he wrote: "You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required."

Johnson is facing investigation by an independent panel following complaints that his comments on the burka breached the Conservative Party’s code of conduct.

The actor, known for his comedy performances in Mr Bean and Blackadder, said the remarks were funny. Credit: PA
Boris Johnson used an article in The Telegraph to argue against a ban on burkas, but said the Muslim face-covering was ‘ridiculous’ Credit: PA

A former Tory chief whip has also backed him, saying he had no need to apologise for making inflammatory comments about Muslim women.

Andrew Mitchell said the former foreign secretary had used "colourful" language but had not committed an offence.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: "I don’t think he should apologise.

"Boris was speaking out against a ban of the type that’s taken place in Denmark and some other countries."

Andrew Mitchell, a former Tory chief whip has backed Boris Johnson. Credit: PA

The prime minister, Tory chairman Brandon Lewis and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson have all urged Johnson to apologise in the Burka row.

But the former Cabinet minister, who is on holiday, has made no response to demands for an apology.

And sources close to the Uxbridge MP made clear earlier this week Boris stands by the newspaper article on Monday comparing women in face-covering veils to looking like letter boxes and bank robbers.

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Lord Sheikh, the founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, was one of those to write to Brandon Lewis to demand "serious action" in response to what critics described as Islamophobia by the former Cabinet minister.

The Tory peer said he had received a wave of abuse since speaking out against Johnson.

Of the 75 emails he had received about the issue, 15 were supportive while the rest "were vile."

He claims the former foreign secretary has "let the genie out of the bottle" with his comments.

Disciplinary action could lead to Johnson being suspended or even expelled from the Tories, but would risk igniting civil war in a party with many members who see him as the best option to succeed Theresa May as leader.

Under party rules, the head of the investigation may dismiss complaints that are obviously trivial or lacking in merit and those which cannot fairly be investigated.