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Former Minister Has Accused Government Of Not Taking Islamophobia Claim Seriously

Nus Ghani claimed her "Muslimness" was linked to her sacking as a minister

5 min read

Former minister Nusrat Ghani has accused the government of not taking her claim that she experienced Islamophobia from a senior member of the party seriously.

Conservative MP Ghani has alleged her "Muslimness" was mentioned by a government whip as a reason for her sacking as a transport minister in 2020. She said she was told her faith was "making colleagues feel uncomfortable" and that if she continued to raise her concerns about the comments that her "career and reputation would be destroyed".

Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer identified himself as being the individual accused of the claims, but insisted they were false and that he considered them "defamatory".

On Sunday, Justice secretary Dominic Raab said there would be no investigation into the claims unless Ghani submitted a formal complaint, which Downing Street later confirmed Boris Johnson had invited her to do at the time of the alleged incident.

But Ghani has now said that when she was told by Johnson to file a complaint through official channels, she urged him to take the allegations more seriously "as a government matter" and to launch an inquiry himself. 

"He wrote to me that he could not get involved and suggested I use the internal Conservative Party complaint process," Ghani said on Sunday

"This, as I had already pointed out, was very clearly not appropriate for something that happened on Government business.

"I do not even know if the words that were conveyed to me about what was said in reshuffle meetings at Downing Street were by members of the Conservative Party.

"Not a day has gone by without thinking about what I was told and wondering why I was in politics, while hoping for the Government to take this seriously."

Ghani said it was impossible for those who had not had their faith and identity questioned to fully appreciate what she had been through, and that she had pursued "every avenue" before going public with the allegation, but that many people already knew about the incident.

"I have many things that I want to achieve in politics, not least my campaigns on human rights and genocide, and I am deeply disappointed that it has come to this."

Earlier on Sunday, Raab said there would be no "specific investigation" into claims made by the former minister. He said the allegations were "incredibly serious" but added that there would be no specific investigation without a formal complaint.

"I know Nus, and I have looked at that allegation. It is incredibly serious," Raab told Sky News on Sunday morning.

"We have absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination and any Islamophobia in the Conservative Party."

Raab said it was appropriate for allegations of this sort to result in a formal complaint, and if that were the case, that a formal investigation could take place. 

"As the chief whip has pointed out, Nus has not made a formal complaint, she was asked to do so," he added. "This relates back to 2020 and in the absence of doing so, there will be no specific investigation in to this."

A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed Boris Johnson had met with Ghani in 2020 to discuss the claims and invited her to submit a formal complaint.

They added Johnson "then wrote to her expressing his serious concern and inviting her to begin a formal complaint process. She did not subsequently do so".

Ghani said the comments about her faith were like being "punched in the stomach" and left her feeling "humiliated and powerless".

She claimed she had been told pursuing the complaint would lead to her being "ostracised by colleagues" and would that her "career and reputation would be destroyed".

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Spencer said he was identifying himself to ensure other whips were not "drawn in" to the complaint. 

"These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me," he wrote.

"It is disappointing that when this issue was raised before Ms Ghani declined to refer the matter to the Conservative Party for a formal investigation."

Spencer also added that he had provided evidence to the Singh investigation, which examined allegations of Islamophobia in the party, saying it had concluded there was "no credibly basis for the claims".

Following the allegations, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tweeted his support for Ghani, saying her claims should be "investigated properly".

"There is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our Conservative party," he wrote. "Nusrat Ghani is a friend, a colleague & a brilliant parliamentarian. This has to be investigated properly & routed out. #standwithNus."

On Saturday Tory MP William Wragg confirmed he was planning to meet with a Metropolitan Police detective in the coming days to discuss claims that government ministers, whips and special advisers had made "blackmail" threats against Conservative MPs who were suspected of being opposed to Boris Johnson.

Wragg said some Tory MPs had been threatened with having public money removed from their constituencies if they opposed the Prime Minister, while others were allegedly told that embarassing stories about them would be pushed to the press.

Downing Street denies the allegations, but said they would investigate any specific complaints if they were made.

Wragg said he stands by his claims, and that the government's denial amounted to "gas-lighting".

He added: "The offer of Number 10 to investigate is kind but I shall leave it to the experts."

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "As with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered."

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