Government language ‘not particularly inflammatory’ – Michael Portillo

Former Conservative MP and cabinet minister Michael Portillo has disputed claims of inflammatory language by the Government.

There were furious scenes in the House of Commons this week as Boris Johnson was accused of stoking violence around Brexit.

But Mr Portillo – a former defence secretary – claimed there had been “no fuss” when what he described as inflammatory language was used previously by Labour MPs.

“I don’t think the Conservative Party has used particularly inflammatory language,” he told the PA news agency.

“Although I do think that there has been an increase in the use of inflammatory language, I think back to the days when Conservative members of Parliament were being assassinated by the IRA. And the IRA was being given comfort by Jeremy Corbyn.”

Mr Portillo – who held many positions in Government, including adviser to Margaret Thatcher – referred to prior controversy over comments made by Labour’s John McDonnell.

The shadow chancellor repeated comments calling for Tory MP Esther McVey to be lynched at an event in 2014.

He has always insisted he was quoting other people and has nothing to apologise for.

Mr Portillo said: “I think of John McDonnell, who made a terribly inflammatory remark about a woman MP, a Conservative, Esther McVey.

“So what I think is quite puzzling is that there is a fuss when Conservatives talk about betrayal, but there has been no fuss before when Labour people have said things much worse and associated with people who really are very closely connected with violence.”

The 66-year-old said a political code of conduct to help protect parliamentarians – as proposed by the Jo Cox Foundation – was not necessary.

“I think robust debate is pretty important and I think to try and codify these things is probably not a very good idea,” Mr Portillo told PA.

“I do worry about the safety of MPs and I think it is very important to uphold democracy, but of course if you’re going to uphold democracy, one of the first things you need to do is to deliver Brexit, because that’s what people voted for.”

On his impressions of Mr Johnson as Prime Minister, Mr Portillo said: “You have to be impressed that he’s determined to deliver the result that the British people voted for.”

A Labour representative has been approached for comment.

Mr Portillo, who left the House of Commons in 2005, made the comments to PA following the Great Sheep Drive event in central London on Sunday.

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