Boris Johnson is continuing to face down calls for him to apologise over the burka row despite intense pressure from Theresa May and senior Tories.

The former foreign secretary caused outrage with a newspaper article comparing women wearing face-covering veils to bank robbers and letter boxes.

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis ordered him to apologise for the remarks and the demand was backed by the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson commentsConservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis ordered Boris Johnson to apologise for his remarks (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright joined the chorus of criticism and former Cabinet minister Lord Pickles said that, while it would be a “very big leap” to suggest Mr Johnson could be thrown out of the party, “you never know how these things develop”.

Sources close to Mr Johnson insisted he would not back down in the row despite the PM’s intervention.

With no apology forthcoming, founder and president of the Conservative Muslim Forum Lord Sheikh told the BBC the party should take “severe action” against Mr Johnson.

He said: “Take the whip from him. Why not? He’s not a super human being, he’s a member of the party.

“The party chairman, the Prime Minister has the right to take the whip … that’s the thing I’d like to see.”

Mr Wright told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “When you are discussing a subject such as this, then I think describing it as people looking like letter boxes isn’t helpful.”

He added: “I think we should all choose our language with care.”

Asked about Mr Johnson’s comments that face veils were oppressive and ridiculous, he said: “That’s the sort of language I think we should try and avoid using.”

Lord Pickles called for Mr Johnson to apologise, but dismissed suggestions that is comments were comparable to Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.

“There are tensions now that exist within the community, a degree of hatred out there that I’ve not witnessed for a good few years,” he said.

“Now, nobody for one moment is suggesting that this is some kind of Rivers of Blood speech.

“This is trivial in comparison to that.”

Conservative peer Lady Warsi accused Mr Johnson of adopting the “dog-whistle” tactics of former Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon in the hope of attracting support from right-wing Tories for an eventual leadership bid.

Labour’s Jess Phillips tweeted in response that Mr Johnson was “just a racist” in response.

“Happy to arrange debate with BJ (Boris Johnson) about all the actions I’ve taken to stand up for liberal values including challenging things considered to be culturally sensitive.

“I’m not afraid to do that, I do it daily without being a racist.

“He’s done nothing to help – he’s just a racist.”