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Chief Whip promoted while implicated in Islamophobia investigation

25th Feb 2022
Chief Whip promoted while implicated in Islamophobia investigation

Hamed Chapman

The Vice-Chair of the All Party Group on British Muslims has challenged Boris Johnson’s “zero tolerance” approach to Islamophobia after he promoted Chief Whip Mark Spencer to be Leader of the House of Commons while being implicated in an ongoing Islamophobia inquiry.

Naz Shah said it is “wholly inappropriate that an individual who allegedly made Islamophobic comments is being promoted as the Leader of the House without the investigation into the matter having even been concluded.”

“If this is the change the Prime Minister was talking about, clearly, it doesn’t include having a zero-tolerance approach to Islamophobia,” the Labour MP, who also serves as Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction, told PoliticsHome.

The Deputy Opposition Leader, Angela Rayner, has formally written to the Cabinet Secretary to seek clarity regarding the status of the investigation ordered by the Prime Minister into allegations of Islamophobia in The government made by former Tory Minister, Nusrat Ghani.

Boris Johnson ordered a formal inquiry after claims made by Ghani that she was sacked as Transport Minister almost two years ago because of her Muslim religion. The Prime Minister had previously written to her, saying “he could not get involved”.

The former minister did not name Spencer herself as one of the culprits, but he identified himself as the accused when her allegations were made public last month, when he strenuously denied the remarks and alleged they were “defamatory”.

“More than two weeks have now passed and we still don’t know how this investigation is being conducted, who is leading on it, or when it will be finished,” Rayner said in her letter to Simon Case on February 8. “It’s vital that this matter is transparently and swiftly addressed, that the investigation’s findings are made public, and any recommended consequences are quickly enacted.”

“You will understand that an allegation as serious as Islamophobia will not have been easy for Ms Ghani to make, and it would be inappropriate for her to face a long wait with no information,” the Opposition Deputy Leader, who is also Shadow Cabinet Minister, pointed out.

“This investigation is also, rightly, a matter of great public interest. Racism has no place in our society, and most definitely not in its highest elected offices,” she warned.

Spencer is facing an investigation led by Boris Johnson’s standards adviser, Lord Geidt, over claims made by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani who alleges she lost her job as a junior minister because her “Muslimness had been raised as an issue” by her colleagues.

On the same day as her letter, Spencer was promoted to Leader of the Commons as part of a mini-reshuffle, making him responsible for “upholding the rights and interests of the backbench members of the House”.

Lord Sheikh, founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, believed the former Chief Whip should have stayed “in situ” as Chief Whip until the investigation had been completed, rather than being rewarded.
“It could have been done later, or until the matter is closed. We’ve got a minister who says she was asked to go because of her Muslimness and I feel very strongly if there’s discrimination, then it needs to be looked into to see if the complaint is justified,” the Tory peer said.

Spencer confirmed to the BBC that Johnson’s standards adviser, Lord Geidt, had been asked to investigate the incident and any possible breach of the ministerial code, while complaining it was a “bit rough not being able to defend yourself until the results of that investigation come forward.”

“I’ve just got to keep my mouth shut, present the facts to Lord Geidt, who is doing the investigation, and once that’s concluded we’ll be able to have a fairly open conversation about that,” he said.

Photo: Mark Spencer  (Credit: Richard Townshend/UK Parliament)


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