THERESA May is coming under more pressure to discipline Boris Johnson for comparing women who wear burkas to bank robbers and letter boxes.

One prominent Tory peer said Johnson’s comments would lead to a hike in hate crime.

While Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the Brexiteer’s words were “poor form” and “rude and gratuitous.”

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Johnson’s remarks were made in Monday’s Telegraph, with the former foreign secretary speaking out against Denmark’s recent decision to ban the burka.

But while attacking the ban, he went on to say it was “absolutely ridiculous” women chose to “go around looking like letter boxes”. He also compared them to looking like “bank robbers”.

Lady Sayeeda Warsi, a former co-chair of the Tories, and a minister in the House of Lords under David Cameron, accused Johnson of using “alt-right” language.

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Writing in the Guardian, the baroness said: “As a feminist, what really disgusts me in this whole episode is that Muslim women are simply political fodder, their lives a convenient battleground on which to stake out a leadership bid.

The National: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was on hand to speak at the Muslim Womens conference in Bingley.

“Well, this approach is not just offensive, it’s dangerous. Johnson’s words have once again validated the view of those that ‘other’ Muslims. They send out a message that Muslim women are fair game.

“What starts as useful targets for ‘colourful political language’ and the odd bit of toxic campaigning ends up in attacks on our streets.”

Warsi added: “He said, not only to those Muslim women who veil, but to many more who associate with a faith in which some women do, that you don’t belong here,” Warsi said.

“I refuse to accept that these phrases were some kind of mistake, and the offence inadvertent – Johnson is too intelligent and too calculating for that. No, this was all quite deliberate. His refusal to apologise supports that.

“He set out a liberal position, but he did it in a very alt-right way. This allowed him to dog-whistle: to say to particular elements of the party that he’s tough on Muslims. Yet again, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it.”

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She then ominously warned: “So, as much as Johnson thinks he’s being his usual clever self, he’s helping to create an environment in which hate crime is more likely.”

Eric Pickles, a former Tory chairman, now in the Lords told the BBC’s Today programme: “The very sensible thing would be for him to apologise.”

Dominic Grieve, the ex-attorney general, said he would quit the party if Johnson became leader.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, Grieve said he would “without the slightest doubt”, leave “because I don’t regard him as a fit and proper person to lead a political party”.

While, speaking at an event with David Steel in North Berwick, East Lothian, Davidson said: “This wasn’t an off-the-cuff slip, he wrote a column, he knew exactly what he was doing and I think it crossed from being provocative and starting a debate and actually it became rude and gratuitous.

“It’s also not been shown through history that when men make sweeping statements about what women should or shouldn’t wear that it goes well for them.

“I think he should apologise for them.”

Her deputy, Jackson Carlaw, went even further. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “Just to be clear this is not a debate about the prevalence of the #burka. It is about the casual, typically sensationalist and gratuitously offensive rhetoric deployed by @BorisJohnson. It has caused real offence to many of my constituents.

The National: Jackson Carlaw was among those who received money. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

“Bluntly, I’m fed up with him. Enough.”

But, there was plenty of support for old Etonian.

Nigel Farage tweeted: “Public figures should be able to say what they really think without constant demands to apologise. This country used to believe in free speech.

“Out there in Middle England, people will not be offended by what Boris has said.”

Tory MP Nadine Dorries was asked if Johnson should apologise for his comments, she replied: “No, he shouldn’t. I’m actually very disappointed in Boris.

“I’m disappointed because he could have used his article to a much better end. He could have called outright for the banning of the burka and to the release and liberation of many women in the UK who are completely isolated and invisible and segregated from society”.