LONDON (Dispatches) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a joke that the UK could become “the Saudi Arabia of penal policy” under Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Johnson made the remarks, which can be seen in footage obtained by Business Insider, during a speech behind closed doors at a Conservative party fundraiser event on 10 September.
“I said last year we’re the Saudi Arabia of wind. Probably the Saudi Arabia of penal policy, under our wonderful home secretary,” Johnson told the 300 attendees at the lunch, which took place at the InterContinental London Park Lane in Mayfair.
Saudi Arabia has been labeled one of the world’s worst rights abusers by the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, as it continues to detain rights advocates, repress peaceful activism, and carry out the death penalty.
Patel’s future as home secretary has been the subject of doubt in recent weeks amid rumors of a possible cabinet reshuffle.
Responding to Johnson’s comments, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, tweeted: “Saudi Arabia beheads its own citizens, tortures activists exercising their democratic rights... This is disgusting. As ever with Boris Johnson, behind closed doors the mask slips and we see what he really thinks.”
“Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record is nothing to joke about. We have real and serious problems with crime and the rule of law in our country that deserve better than sloppy punchlines behind closed doors,” said Carmichael.
“Boris Johnson may admire his pals in the Saudi dictatorship, but he cannot escape the fact that his Conservative government is failing miserably to do what actually works to prevent crime.”