THE row over Boris Johnson’s burka comments is threatening to tear the Tory party apart.

Yesterday, some 72 hours after they’d first appeared in print, the party moved to take some action against the former foreign secretary.

Reports suggested the party had received “dozens” of complaints accusing the Johnson of breaking the code of conduct that all Tory members are expected to follow.

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Those complaints will now be assessed by an independent panel which could refer Johnson to the party’s board, and which has the power to expel him.

The Tories wouldn’t comment on the reports, saying only that “the code of conduct process is strictly confidential”.

Johnson has refused to apologise for remarks made on Monday in his weekly newspaper column.

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The old Etonian was speaking out against Denmark’s recent decision to ban the burka, but then 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, pictured below, 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.

The National:

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.”

A hundred Muslim women who wear the niqab or burka have signed a letter to party chair Brandon Lewis, calling on him to withdraw the Conservative whip from Johnson and launch an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party.

“We are not forced to make these clothing choices, nor are we oppressed,” the women said in their letter.

The Tory code of conduct says officials and elected representatives must “lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance” and not “use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others”.

Lewis has already called for Johnson to apologise. That in itself has infuriated some Tory members.

One minister told a daily newspaper that Lewis had “lost the plot”, adding that his decision to criticise Johnson represented a “complete own goal” for the party.

Conor Burns, a Tory MP and ally of Johnson, said: “It would be perverse and bizarre were the party to launch a formal investigation.

“When we have reached the stage when you cannot express an opinion it is a rum do in the party of freedom. What should have been a 24-hour news story has dragged on for the best part of a week and is damaging the party.”

Other senior Tories have hit out at Johnson, with Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson one of those urging him to apologise.

Speaking during an “in conversation” event with former Liberal leader Lord David Steel at the Fringe by the Sea in North Berwick, East Lothian, Davidson said that while she agreed with the sentiment of the newspaper article – that face-covering veils should not be banned – she found his remarks offensive.

“I think 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,” Davidson said.

“I think that 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.”

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She added of his comments: “I think he should apologise for them.

“It doesn’t bode well, and we’ve seen it in the arguments and the debate over anti-Semitism in Labour, of how we’ve got to a point in 2018 where we’re supposed to be so much better at accepting and discussing and being open about different faiths, religions, backgrounds, social classes, all of these things, and actually we’ve become slightly even more siloed and treating them differently.”

She added: “If you use the analogy of Christianity, would you ever write in the Telegraph that you should have a debate about banning Christians from wearing crucifixes?”