Boris Johnson’s government plunged into a new crisis yesterday, after Nusrat Ghani claimed she lost her job as Transport Minister in a reshuffle due to her “Muslimness”
Calls are intensifying for an inquiry into Tory Islamophobia after a former minister claimed she was sacked because her Muslim faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.
Boris Johnson ’s government plunged into a new crisis yesterday, after Nusrat Ghani made bombshell claims that she lost her job as Transport Minister in a 2020 reshuffle due to her “Muslimness”.
The news exposed fresh divisions in the Tory civil war, with Chief Whip Mark Spencer and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab saying the MP for Wealden refused to put in an “official” complaint.
Meanwhile Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the allegations must be “investigated properly and racism routed out”, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was a “very serious matter which needs a proper investigation”.
It comes at a moment of peril for the Prime Minister ahead of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into rule-busting parties in Downing Street.
Ms Ghani’s claims, which follow claims by ex-party chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi that the party has been dogged by racism, have led to calls for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to intervene.
Ms Ghani told the Sunday Times her faith was raised at a meeting in the whips’ office. She said: “It was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless.
“I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim women minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable and there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend it against Islamophobia allegations’.
“It was very clear to me that the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith.
“In the following weeks, I was informed that if I persisted in raising this I would be ostracised by colleagues and my career and reputation would be destroyed.”
Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Nusrat Ghani’s testimony is shocking, but not surprising. That she is experiencing this as a Muslim woman at the top of the party only reinforces the deep-rooted nature of the problem. Institutional Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has gone on with impunity far too long. Our political landscape must be fair and inclusive for all.”
Labour ’s Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry said the Tories “just don’t take Islamophobia in their midst seriously”.
She told Times Radio: “I would like to see an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party in the same way we quite rightly held an independent inquiry into the poison that is anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”
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Mr Raab told Sky News that the allegation was “incredibly serious” but added: “Nus hasn’t made a formal complaint. She was asked to do so. In the absence of doing so there will be no specific investigation into this.”
Mr Spencer said he was the person Ms Ghani spoke to, but added in a series of tweets: “These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”
The conduct of the whips’ office has faced scrutiny after senior Tory William Wragg suggested MPs were blackmailed and threatened with losing constituency cash if they failed to back ministers.
Former Tory MP Christian Wakeford, who defected to Labour last week, claimed that former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he would not get money for a new school in Bury South if he did not swing behind Mr Johnson in a vote.
A No10 spokesperson said the PM met Ms Ghani to discuss her “extremely serious claims” then wrote to her inviting her to make a formal complaint, which she did not do. The spokesperson added: “The Conservative party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”
Ms Ghani yesterday said the party’s complaint process was “clearly not appropriate for something that happened on Government business”.
She added: “Those that have not had their identity and faith questioned cannot fully appreciate what it does to you. All I have ever wanted was for his Government to take this seriously, investigate properly and ensure no other colleague has to endure this.”
Tory MP Michael Fabricant told LBC Radio that her claim she was sacked due to being Muslim “stinks”.
He said: “I think all this is because it’s open season on Boris Johnson. She’s hardly someone who is obviously a Muslim. It seems rather a lame excuse.” Labour’s David Lammy called his comments “shameful” and for the Conservative whip to be withdrawn.