Boris Johnson is to a face a disciplinary investigation by the Conservative party following a string of complaints about his comments on the burqa, triggering a fresh bout of infighting between his supporters and critics.
The former foreign secretary could ultimately be suspended or expelled, while one peer who made a formal complaint said he had been told that if Johnson were to apologise now it would not halt the process.
Party sources said dozens of complaints had been received after Johnson wrote a column in Monday's Telegraph that compared women in burqas to letterboxes and bank robbers.
An independent investigator will have to decide whether the complaints are sufficiently serious to appoint a three-person panel to examine the matter further. Johnson will be asked if he wants to provide a statement in his own defence.