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'He's a bit of a character' - Conservative candidate refuses to apologise for Boris Johnson comments

PUBLISHED: 17:24 03 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:54 03 December 2019

Parliamentary candidates standing for the South Norfolk seat with students from Diss High School, including  Richard Bacon (Con), Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab), Ben Price (Green) and Chris Brown (Lib Dem), and at the student hustings. Photo: Emily Thomson

Parliamentary candidates standing for the South Norfolk seat with students from Diss High School, including Richard Bacon (Con), Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab), Ben Price (Green) and Chris Brown (Lib Dem), and at the student hustings. Photo: Emily Thomson

Emily Thomson

A Conservative election candidate has refused to apologise on behalf of Boris Johson for the party leader's controversial comments about Muslim women.

Dhiya Deepu is a sixth form student at Diss High School who questioned the parliamentary candidates at the student hustings. Photo: Emily ThomsonDhiya Deepu is a sixth form student at Diss High School who questioned the parliamentary candidates at the student hustings. Photo: Emily Thomson

Speaking to students at Diss High School on Tuesday, Richard Bacon, a candidate in South Norfolk, was responding to a question about Mr Johnson's comments about Muslim women in burkas looking like 'letter boxes'.

Mr Johnson made the comments in his column in The Telegraph in August 2018.

The comments were said to have sparked an increase in Islamophobic incidents in the weeks after its publication.

But Mr Bacon said Mr Johnson is a "one off" and "a bit of a character" but that he was not responsible for the words of the prime minister.

Parliamentary candidates standing for the South Norfolk seat, including Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab) Richard Bacon (Con), Chris Brown (Lib Dem), and Ben Price (Green) at Diss High School's student hustings. Photo: Emily ThomsonParliamentary candidates standing for the South Norfolk seat, including Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab) Richard Bacon (Con), Chris Brown (Lib Dem), and Ben Price (Green) at Diss High School's student hustings. Photo: Emily Thomson

The candidates standing for the seat, including Mr Bacon (Con), Christopher Brown (Lib Dem), Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab) and Ben Price (Green), spoke to teenagers about austerity, cuts to schools, Brexit, and the recent London Bridge terror attack.

When questioned by sixth form student Dhiya Deepu, 17, about racial tensions and if Mr Johnson should apologise for his "letter box" comments, the Tory candidate said it was down to the prime minister.

He said: "This resentment has grown since the Brexit debate started. We need to make sure different groups in society know about and understand each other.

"Quite often when there is resentment towards minority groups it's due to ignorance and that has to change.

Parliamentary candidates standing for the South Norfolk seat with students from Diss High School, including Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab) Richard Bacon (Con), Chris Brown (Lib Dem), and Ben Price (Green) at the student hustings. Photo: Emily ThomsonParliamentary candidates standing for the South Norfolk seat with students from Diss High School, including Geraldine Smith-Cullen, representing Beth Jones (Lab) Richard Bacon (Con), Chris Brown (Lib Dem), and Ben Price (Green) at the student hustings. Photo: Emily Thomson

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"The thing about Boris Johnson is that he is a one off and a bit of a character and he will say things on reflection.

"We are all responsible for our own words. I'm not responsible for his words anymore than he is responsible for mine."

But the candidate for the Green Party, Mr Price, said: "I would like to apologise on behalf of Boris. When he made that letter box comment it was disgusting."

Ms Smith-Cullen, representing Ms Jones, who could not make the hustings, spoke about teaching young people to accept "we are all different but we all have something to offer society".

After the hustings, Ms Deepu, who studies History, English and Psychology at the school said: "I don't feel satisfied with Mr Bacon's response to my question at all.

"He is not claiming responsibility for the actions of his party."

The candidates standing in South Norfolk are:

- Richard Bacon for the Conservatives

- Christopher Brown for the Liberal Democrats

- Beth Jones for Labour

- Ben Price for the Green Party

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