The civil war within the UK’s ruling Conservative party deepened on Sunday when a former minister accused whips of Islamophobia after she was sacked and warned not to discuss the matter in public.
Nusrat Ghani, who served as a transport minister from January 2018 to February 2020, claimed she was told by a Tory whip that her “Muslimness was raised as a problem” by Downing Street for her dismissal. She added that the whip told her that her “Muslim wife ministerial status makes colleagues feel uncomfortable”.
Ghani (49) joined the Sunday Times she felt “humiliated and powerless” after the episode and was warned not to discuss the issue of whether “her career and reputation will be destroyed”. She added: “I will not pretend that it did not shake my faith in the party.”
The claim comes as the Tories prepare for the expected publication this week of senior official Sue Gray’s report on alleged parties in Downing Street during restrictions. The case prompted a number of Tory MPs to file letters of no confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Downing Street said Johnson met Ghani on July 1, 2020, after being made aware of “these extremely serious claims” and wrote to her on July 10, “expressing his grave concern and inviting her to start a formal complaints process.” Number 10 added: “The Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”
Mark Spencer, chief whip, identified herself as the whip she spoke to in March 2020, but described her remarks as “completely false” and “defamatory.”
“It is disappointing that when this issue was raised before Ms Ghani refused to refer the matter to the Conservative party for a formal investigation,” he tweeted.
Spencer added: “I provided evidence to the Singh inquiry into Islamophobia which concluded that there was no credible basis for the allegations.”
But Ghani was defended by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who called for the allegations to be “properly investigated” and “racism eliminated”.
He tweeted with a hashtag #standwithNus, “there is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our Conservative party. Nus Ghani is a friend, a colleague and a brilliant Member of Parliament.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News the allegations were “incredibly serious”, but pointed out that she had refused to lay a formal charge.
“It is very unusual that the chief whip came out and. . . “categorically denied it in what can only be described as the most straightforward and robust terms,” he said.
Several other prominent conservatives have expressed support for Ghani. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Commons, called for an investigation into the allegations. “There is no place for racism in conservatives.” Steve Baker, a prominent backbench MP, described her remarks as “completely unbearable” and said: “We need to get to the bottom of it.”
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labor Party, expressed solidarity with Ghani and blamed a culture “placed at the top”. He said: “There is report after report of horrific behavior and lack of respect in the midst of this government.”
Meanwhile, Christian Wakeford, who defected from the Tories to the Labor Party last week, named former education secretary and chief whip Gavin Williamson as the whip who threatened to cancel the construction of a new school if he “did not vote in one particular way. not”.
Wakeford told the Sunday Times Williamson told him: “It is not very useful to support an opposition [motion] against the department where you want a very big favor from that department, so consider what you do. ”
Williamson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.