Home UK News Nusrat Ghani and the Tory party’s Islamophobia problem

Nusrat Ghani and the Tory party’s Islamophobia problem

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The prime minister has ordered the Cabinet Office to investigate claims that a Tory MP was told after being fired that her “Muslim woman minister status” had made her “colleagues feel uncomfortable”.

Nusrat Ghani – the first Muslim woman to be elected as a Conservative MP – told The Sunday Times that a government whip had said her “Muslimness” had been “raised as an issue” at a Downing Street meeting about the mini re-shuffle in early 2020 in which she lost her job as a transport minister.

Ghani said that she was also told “there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations”. The comments were like “being punched in the stomach” and made her feel “humiliated and powerless”, the MP for Wealden in East Sussex told the paper.

But she kept quiet after being warned that her “career and reputation would be destroyed” if she spoke out, Ghani said.

Chief whip identifies himself 

Although Ghani did not say who made the alleged comments, Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer identified himself as the person to whom she referred. Spencer tweeted a denial of the allegations, which he described as “completely false” and “defamatory”. 

When Ghani first made the claims, she was “invited to use the formal CCHQ complaints procedure” but “declined to do so”, he wrote.

Ghani tweeted back that the internal CCHQ complaints process “was very clearly not appropriate for something that happened on government business”. She urged Boris Johnson to “take this seriously, investigate properly and ensure no other colleague has to endure this”. 

PM orders inquiry 

In a statement this morning that echoed Spencer’s version of events, a Downing Street spokesperson said that Johnson had “recommended” that Ghani made a formal complaint when she first made the allegations but that she “did not take up this offer”.

The PM “has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened”, said the spokesperson, adding: “As he said at the time, the prime minister takes these claims very seriously.” 

Previous Islamophobia allegations

Former Tory party chair Sayeeda Warsi described Ghani’s experience as “an open secret in Westminster” and said that she had “struggled to be heard” for nearly two years, the BBC reported. 

Warsi, who was the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet, said that she believed there was a “pattern” of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and called for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to intervene.

 Similar allegations have been made repeatedly in recent years. In March 2019, an investigation by The Guardian found that 15 Conservative councillors who had been suspended over Islamophobic or racist content posted online had seen their membership “quietly reinstated”. The content included a description of Saudis as “sand peasants” and the sharing of material that compared Asian people to dogs.

The probe findings were revealed as London Mayor Sadiq Khan told The Observer that he had been subjected to anti-Muslim abuse from Tory members and supporters. In an open letter to then PM Theresa May, Khan said: “The Conservative Party in particular needs to do much more to send the clear message that Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, as unfortunately that has not always been the case over recent years.” 

In June 2021, former Tory MEP Sajjad Karim claimed that Muslim members of the party had been “deliberately excluded” from an inquiry into Islamophobia within its ranks. The long-awaited report had come out the previous month, and had concluded that there was no evidence of institutional racism in the party – a verdict that Muslim Tories criticised as a “whitewash”.

Johnson has faced personal accusations of Islamophobia several times, most notably after referred to women wearing burqas as “going around looking like letterboxes”, in a Daily Telegraph column written in 2018, before he became PM. 

‘Very significant week’

The launch of the inquiry into Ghani’s allegations comes during a crunch period for Downing Street, with the much-anticipated “partygate” report by civil servant Sue Gray expected to be released shortly.

“All these different fuses that have been lit,” said the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg. “It is going to be a very, very significant week for Downing Street.”

The prime minister has ordered the Cabinet Office to investigate claims that a Tory MP was told after being fired that her “Muslim woman minister status” had made her “colleagues feel uncomfortable”.
Nusrat Ghani – the first Muslim woman to be elected as a Conservative MP – told The Sunday Times that a government whip had said her “Muslimness” had been “raised as an issue” at a Downing Street meeting about the mini re-shuffle in early 2020 in which she lost her job as a transport minister.
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Ghani said that she was also told “there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations”. The comments were like “being punched in the stomach” and made her feel “humiliated and powerless”, the MP for Wealden in East Sussex told the paper.
But she kept quiet after being warned that her “career and reputation would be destroyed” if she spoke out, Ghani said.
Chief whip identifies himself 
Although Ghani did not say who made the alleged comments, Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer identified himself as the person to whom she referred. Spencer tweeted a denial of the allegations, which he described as “completely false” and “defamatory”. 
When Ghani first made the claims, she was “invited to use the formal CCHQ complaints procedure” but “declined to do so”, he wrote.
Ghani tweeted back that the internal CCHQ complaints process “was very clearly not appropriate for something that happened on government business”. She urged Boris Johnson to “take this seriously, investigate properly and ensure no other colleague has to endure this”. 
PM orders inquiry 
In a statement this morning that echoed Spencer’s version of events, a Downing Street spokesperson said that Johnson had “recommended” that Ghani made a formal complaint when she first made the allegations but that she “did not take up this offer”.
The PM “has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened”, said the spokesperson, adding: “As he said at the time, the prime minister takes these claims very seriously.” 
Previous Islamophobia allegations
Former Tory party chair Sayeeda Warsi described Ghani’s experience as “an open secret in Westminster” and said that she had “struggled to be heard” for nearly two years, the BBC reported. 
Warsi, who was the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet, said that she believed there was a “pattern” of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and called for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to intervene.
 Similar allegations have been made repeatedly in recent years. In March 2019, an investigation by The Guardian found that 15 Conservative councillors who had been suspended over Islamophobic or racist content posted online had seen their membership “quietly reinstated”. The content included a description of Saudis as “sand peasants” and the sharing of material that compared Asian people to dogs.
The probe findings were revealed as London Mayor Sadiq Khan told The Observer that he had been subjected to anti-Muslim abuse from Tory members and supporters. In an open letter to then PM Theresa May, Khan said: “The Conservative Party in particular needs to do much more to send the clear message that Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, as unfortunately that has not always been the case over recent years.” 
In June 2021, former Tory MEP Sajjad Karim claimed that Muslim members of the party had been “deliberately excluded” from an inquiry into Islamophobia within its ranks. The long-awaited report had come out the previous month, and had concluded that there was no evidence of institutional racism in the party – a verdict that Muslim Tories criticised as a “whitewash”.
Johnson has faced personal accusations of Islamophobia several times, most notably after referred to women wearing burqas as “going around looking like letterboxes”, in a Daily Telegraph column written in 2018, before he became PM. 
‘Very significant week’
The launch of the inquiry into Ghani’s allegations comes during a crunch period for Downing Street, with the much-anticipated “partygate” report by civil servant Sue Gray expected to be released shortly.
“All these different fuses that have been lit,” said the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg. “It is going to be a very, very significant week for Downing Street.”