Boris Johnson's sister condemns his 'tasteless' language after combative House of Commons debate

The resistance against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's combative language has become a family affair after his sister ripped into him for being "tasteless".

The House of Commons was described on Thursday as an "absolute bear pit" by the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg as MPs fought over Johnson's use of language to describe anti-no-deal brexit legislation and his parliamentary opponents.

Of particular note was his frequent description of the Benn Act - which demands the Government ask for an extension to Brexit if a new deal isn't passed by October 31 - as the "surrender Bill". His critics argue this portrays his opponents as traitors surrendering to the European Union (EU).

One Labour MP, Paula Sheriff, said "offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language" should not be used to describe legislation.

"We stand here under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day," she said in the House of Commons.

She was referencing former Labour MP Jo Cox who was assassinated in 2016 by Thomas Mair, a man who held far-right views and was yelled "Britain first" as he attacked her.

Paula Sherriff.
Paula Sherriff. Photo credit: British Parliament.

Johnson replied to Sheriff's remarks by saying he had never heard "such humbug in all my life" and was later blasted for saying the best way to honour Cox was to "get Brexit done", despite Cox being a Remain supporter.

Cox's husband, Brendan, tweeted that he felt "sick" by how Johnson was using Cox's name. 

"The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination. But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common," he said.

Now, Johnson's own sister, Rachel, has come out against him, telling Sky News his language was "tasteless".

"I think it was particularly tasteless for those who are grieving a mother, MP and friend to say the best way to honour her memory is to deliver the thing she and her family campaigned against - Brexit," she said.

"It was a very tasteless way of referring to the memory of a murdered MP, who was murdered by someone who said 'Britain first', obviously of the far-right tendency, which is being whipped up by this sort of language."

Rachel - who opposes her brother's Brexit position - said he was going too far.

"My brother is using words like 'surrender' and 'capitulation' as if the people standing in the way of the blessed will of the people, as defined by the 17.4 million votes in 2016, should be hung, drawn, quartered, tarred, and feathered."

Boris and Rachel Johnson.
Boris and Rachel Johnson. Photo credit: Reuters / Sky News.

She's not the first member of Johnson's family to defy him. His brother, Jo, resigned from his Government earlier this month over its Brexit strategy.

Several Labour MPs claim to have received death threats recently, with one - Karl Turner - complaining to Johnson's senior adviser Dominic Cummings that the Prime Minister was stirring up inappropriate rhetoric. A video of the confrontation shows Cummings simply reply saying "get Brexit done".

Johnson refuses to apologise for his comments and has the support of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. 

"When Boris Johnson uses words like surrender and betrayal, he is right," Farage tweeted.

Debate continues to intensify over the future of Britain as the October 31 deadline looms. 

Johnson says an extension won't be sought, suggesting he intends to either pass a new deal or break the law by not requesting an extension.

The Prime Minister suffered another defeat in the House of Commons on Friday (NZ Time), when it voted down a motion for a short recess during the Conservative Party conference next week. Recesses during party conferences are common.