Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith has said that the party's internal disciplinary system should not be used "to shut down" Boris Johnson after his controversial comments about fully veiled Muslim women.
The party has received complaints that the comments breach its code of conduct, and under Conservative rules they must be investigated by an independent panel. He is instead more likely to be told.
Although Johnson is not short of critics, he has found an ally in Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson who was seemingly tickled by Boris' column.
The internal Tory process looking at Mr Johnson's comparison of Muslim women in face coverings with "bank robbers" or "letter boxes" was automatically triggered on Thursday after party headquarters received several complaints. "On that basis, no apology is required".
A hundred Muslim women who wear the niqab had written to Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the Conservative Party, demanding that Johnson be kicked out of the party. "Extraordinary to think he was foreign secretary only a few weeks ago".
But Mrs May, amid calls from Tory peer Lord Sheikh for Mr Johnson to be removed from the party, has insisted Mr Johnson apologise, saying his remarks "clearly caused offence".
"This is quite an important issue about free speech and it's got nothing to do with the terrible events that take place over Enoch Powell and the Rivers of Blood speech".
'You should really only apologise for a bad joke. 'Completely entitled to say it'Jacob Rees-Mogg, Tory MP for North East Somerset " He's completely entitled to say it and there's nothing to apologise for", Mr Rees-Mogg told Nigel Farage on LBC.
"The burka and niqab are disgusting tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim".
Mr Johnson, who is holidaying overseas, has made no response to demands for an apology and sources who are close to him have made clear he stands by the article.
But with anger from the Brexit wing of the party over even starting the process, party headquarters confirmed that Mr Lewis - who has already criticised Mr Johnson's comments - would not pick the panel.
Mr Mitchell, who was chief whip in 2012 and worldwide development secretary before that, told BBC Two's Newsnight: "I don't think he should apologise".
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, he added: "Just because we find something distasteful doesn't mean it's either illegal or it shouldn't happen".