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Johnson orders inquiry into claims Tory minister was sacked for being Muslim

28th Jan 2022
Johnson orders inquiry into claims Tory minister was sacked for being Muslim

Hamed Chapman and Ahmed J Versi

Boris Johnson has ordered a formal inquiry into allegations that the first and only Muslim woman to be a Tory MP was sacked as a minister almost two years ago because of her religion

“The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP,” a Downing Street spokesman said after she revealed Johnson had previously written to her that “he could not get involved” and suggested she use the party’s internal complaint process.

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

Ghani said that the terms of reference for any inquiry “must include all that was said in Downing Street and by the whip”.

“As I said to the Prime Minister last night, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate. I welcome his decision to do that now,” she said.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Tory MP revealed that when she was sacked as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Aviation and Maritime in a mini reshuffle in Feb 2020, she was told by a party whip that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.

At a meeting at the time in Downing Street, she said her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” and claimed she had kept quiet after being warned that if she continued to raise the matter she would be “ostracised by colleagues” and her “career and reputation would be destroyed”.
Her revelation comes amid a growing row over the behaviour of Government whips towards their party colleagues at Westminster, with William Wragg, Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, due to meet police to discuss allegations that Downing Street tried to blackmail MPs.

Wragg, who like Ghani, is a Vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee, has been outspoken in alleging that several MPs have faced pressures and intimidation from members of the Government because of their support for a vote of confidence against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Without being named, Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, broke cover to identify himself as the person Ghani made claims about but also to deny the accusations which he insisted were “completely false” and he had “never used those words attributed to me.”

Speaking on Sky’s Sunday political show, Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, described Ghani’s allegations as “incredibly serious” but said there would be “no investigation by the Conservative party unless she submitted a formal complaint.”

Ghani, who was first elected as an MP for Wealden in East Sussex, in 2015, was given her ministerial post at the Department of Transport under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May in January 2018. She became the first Muslim woman minister to also speak from the House of Commons Despatch Box.

“It was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless,” she said about the reasons given for being sacked. She added she had since considered whether she wanted to continue being an MP. “I will not pretend that this hasn’t shaken my faith in the party.”

At the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street, Ghani said that “there were concerns I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.”

“I had to listen to a monologue on how hard it was to define when people are being racist and that the party doesn’t have a problem and I needed to do more to defend it. It was very clear to me the whips and No. 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith.”
She claimed, “In this second meeting I was again told there was no Islamophobia in the party and, as if to add to the issue they had with me, I was told that I was in fact fired for apparently saying to the PM that we had a ‘women problem’ [attracting female voters]. 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.
Commenting on the dismissal, Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Anneliese Dodds, said Johnson “must launch an urgent investigation into what happened and sanction anyone who targeted Islamophobic comments at a female Muslim MP.”
“More than six months since the Singh investigation into alleged discrimination in the Conservative Party, and with the party apparently still unwilling to even use the term ‘Islamophobia’, it seems the Tories still have a lot of work to do to root out this insidious hatred from the top to the bottom of their party,” Dodds said.

The watered-down Singh inquiry claimed to have found no evidence of “institutional Islamophobia” despite analysis of 1,418 complaints relating to 727 separate incidents as recorded in the Conservatives’ complaints database between 2015 and 2020.

(Photo credit: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

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