EXCL Tory Islamophobia row not like Labour's 'institutionalised' anti-Semitism, says minister
The scale of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party "in no way compares" to Labour's own battles with “institutionalised” anti-Semitism, a top Tory minister has said.
The Conservatives have faced growing calls in recent weeks to launch a formal investigation into anti-Islam abuse, with the Muslim Council of Britain calling for a "full audit to ensure racists and bigots have no place in the party".
Meanwhile, former Tory chair Baroness Warsi on Monday claimed that such views went "all the way up to the top" in the party.
But Nusrat Ghani - who this year became Britain's first female minister from a Muslim background to speak at the Commons despatch box - pushed back against characterisations of her party as rife with Islamophobia, and hit out at Labour over its own struggles to root out anti-Jewish abuse.
“You always come across people that have some stupid ideas and say stupid things,” the Transport Minister told PoliticsHome's sister title The House magazine.
“It in no way compares to how anti-Semitism has been institutionalised within the Labour Party…
"I think if anyone feels that they’ve been treated differently because of their heritage or their faith or their gender then they should report it. I’m sure the chairman, Brandon Lewis, will take every one of those incidences seriously if they exist.
“But I was on the Home Affairs Select Committee and I was one of the MPs that called for an investigation into anti-Semitism across politics.
"I did not expect to take evidence the way that we did – how it was rooted within the Labour Party – at all. And when it becomes institutionalised that’s when this kind of hate becomes a problem.”
Ms Ghani urged anyone with concerns about Islamophobia in the Conservatives to "most definitely go forward and report it" to party chiefs.
However, asked if the party should launch a formal inquiry into anti-Islam abuse, the minister said: "That’s for the party to decide if that’s what they want to do.
"But you know - it’s not the experiences that I have. I mentor dozens of candidates, whether they’re council or parliamentarian.
"I’m always keen to try and get people involved in politics - and for me it’s not about their faith or their heritage.
"For me, we just need to get more working class people into politics. For me that’s the thing I think we need to deal with more than anything."
Labour is currently part-way through a review of the way it handles complaints about anti-Semitism following criticism from Jewish community groups and after a number of the party's MPs detailed the abuse they had faced in emotional Commons scenes.
A Labour spokesperson declined to comment on the minister's remarks.
However, party sources said Labour's new general secretary Jennie Formby had already pledged to make a clampdown on anti-Semitism her a top priority and said Jeremy Corbyn had made his personal commitment to tackling antisemitism "absolutely clear".
They questioned the Conservatives' "lack of action" on Islamophobia claims and accused the party of being in denial about a long-running problem.
JAVID SHOWS UK'S 'FANTASTIC'
Ms Ghani - who said she had faced "occasional nonsense from the far right, and the far left, and Islamist extremists" throughout her political life - meanwhile told The House that the recent appointment of Sajid Javid as Britain's first Home Secretary was a sign of how far the country had come on diversity.
"When I was growing up I would never, never have believed you if you’d told me that we would have a Muslim Home Secretary,” the Wealden MP said.
“I grew up in quite a working-class community in Birmingham – a mixture of people lived there – and you would never have relied or called on the police.
"This was the 70s and the 80s, you just would never have. Now to think that someone like Sajid is responsible for our safety and security and policing. It’s why we have to reflect on how fantastic our country is.”
Mr Javid last month batted away the Muslim Council of Britain's criticism of his party, saying that "too many of their members have had favourable comments on extremists" - comments that prompted an angry response from the MCB which accused him of seeking to "shoot the messenger".
The House magazine's full interview with Nusrat Ghani - covering HS2, her drive to get more young people into in engineering, and the DfT’s work to prepare ports for Brexit - is available to read here
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