Patrons to resign from charity after Boris Johnson burqa comments

Written by Lauren Weymouth

Two patrons of charity Classics for All have threatened to resign, claiming they no longer want to work with the charity while former foreign secretary Boris Johnson remains involved.

The threat comes after Johnson, who is a current patron of the UK education charity, likened women who wear a burqa or niqab to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. The comments, which were made in a newspaper article, received widespread criticism and are currently being investigated by the Conservatives.

According to resignation letters seen by Buzzfeed News, BBC broadcaster Natalie Haynes and the Guardian’s chief culture writer Charlotte Higgins have said they will both be resigning as patrons of Classics for All, claiming they do want to be affiliated with a “dog-whistling racist and misogynist”.

"I'm sorry to have to be writing this, but I don't feel able to stay on as a patron of a charity which offers Boris Johnson the slightest veneer of respectability," Haynes wrote.

"I appreciate that the Board members wish to discuss it, and I've no doubt August is a difficult time to bring everyone together. That's one of the many disadvantages of having a dog-whistling racist and misogynist as a patron: you never know when they'll next spew their hate-mongering remarks."

Haynes said she would like to withdraw as a patron until after the board has met in October to discuss the issue.

"I hope very much that they will choose to shun a person who chooses to advance his own cause at any price with no regard for those who are caught in the crossfire.”

In another letter, Charlotte Higgins said she would also be stepping down from the charity unless it ended all affiliation with Johnson.

"Let us not be confused about what is at stake here. Boris Johnson has chosen – disguised under the guise of a liberal argument – to make cruel, derogatory and belittling remarks about a section of our community that is not powerful, that is not well represented at any political level, and that is under particular threat from racism, misogyny and Islamophobia at this time.

"What he is doing is cynical: stoking cultural and religious tensions, with the ultimate aim not of forwarding any liberal argument about the niqab or burqa, but of furthering his own political ambitions."

Current patrons of the charity include professor Mary Beard, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon and BBC broadcaster Martha Kearney.

In a Tweet, the charity said it will review its concerns about Johnson’s association with the charity in October, but it has currently distanced itself from the comments.

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