Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has said there will be no “specific investigation” into a Tory MP’s claim that she was told she’d been fired as a minister due to concerns about her “Muslimness”.
Nusrat Ghani said a government whip told her that her faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”. This was when she lost her job as a transport minister in 2020.
Raab said while Ghani’s allegation was “incredibly serious”, there would be no investigation by the Conservative Party unless she submitted a formal complaint.
However, in her interview, Ghani said she had not pursued the matter at the time. This was after warnings that she’d be “ostracised by colleagues” and her “career and reputation would be destroyed”.
Her explosive claim brought immediate condemnation from Conservative MPs and opposition parties alike. And Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi led demands for an inquiry.
In her interview, Ghani, the MP for Wealden, said she was shocked when the issue of her background and faith was raised. It came up during a meeting in the whips’ office after the mini-reshuffle in February 2020. She told the paper:
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 that there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party 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 that I would be ostracised by colleagues and my career and reputation would be destroyed.
Party whips leading by example
In a dramatic move, chief whip Mark Spencer outed himself as the individual who spoke to Ghani. But he strongly denied using the words Ghani claimed:
To ensure other Whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about this evening.
These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me
— Mark Spencer (@Mark_Spencer) January 22, 2022
The row erupted at the start of a crucial week for Johnson. Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating lockdown parties in Downing Street, is expected to deliver her report this week.
The conduct of the whips’ office has come under intense scrutiny recently. It’s following claims that tactics amounting to blackmail were used to pressurise Tory MPs seeking to oust Johnson.
Raab told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme:
[Spencer] has categorically denied it in what can only be described as the most forthright and robust terms indeed…
If there are any claims like this they should result in a formal complaint which allows a formal investigation to take place.
As the Chief Whip has pointed out 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.
Featured image via Wikimedia/Chris McAndrew
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