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Tue, 7 April 2020

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Minister claims Tory party doesn’t need independent inquiry into Islamophobia

Minister claims Tory party doesn’t need independent inquiry into Islamophobia
3 min read

A minister has suggested the Tories don’t need an independent inquiry into Islamophobia – despite a new raft of suspensions for members.

Kwasi Kwarteng claimed the party has “enough structure and discipline” to deal with the issue internally.

That is despite Chancellor Sajid Javid successfully getting Boris Johnson to agree to one when they were both running to be Conservative leader.

Mr Kwarteng was asked about the issue after the BBC highlighted more than 20 new cases to the party where supporters posted or endorsed Islamophobic material on social media.

A spokesperson for the Tories said all those found to be members were suspended immediately.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Kwarteng said the party was "trying to get to grips with this problem" and it had taken "decisive action" in this case.

He said: "When it was revealed, we took very decisive action, they were suspended. We will look into the case and if there is a cause to expel them I'm sure they will be expelled."

But, asked about whether an independent inquiry was needed, Mr Kwarteng said: “I think the party has enough structure and discipline and focus to try and deal with this problem in the first instance.

“Obviously this is something that is ongoing.”

Pressed on the issue, the energy minister added: “I don’t know exactly when we will be able to announce what structures we have in order to expel or maintain the suspension of these members.

“But there is no doubt that we took very summary action when we found out last night what had been going on.”

In a statement Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We are not surprised by the latest revelations.

“They are a manifestation of institutional Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, and corroborate the polling done demonstrating the scale of the issue.

“An independent and specific inquiry into Islamophobia specifically is long overdue. Sadly the Conservative response has been woeful.

“From denial, through to now a reluctant commitment to a broad and watered down investigation that we fear will do nothing to address this problem.”

In response to the BBC investigation, a Conservative spokesperson told the broadcaster the party was now "establishing the terms" of an investigation into the wider issue.

They said: "All those found to be party members have been suspended immediately, pending investigation.

"The Conservative Party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind.

"That's why we are already establishing the terms of an investigation to make sure that such instances are isolated and robust processes are in place to stamp them out as and when they occur."

During a televised debate between the candidates to replace Theresa May earlier this year, Mr Javid urged his rivals to commit to an external investigation, which they all appeared to agree to.

But there have been suggestions that Mr Johnson, who won the leadership contest, is watering down that pledge now he is Prime Minister.

Asked about the subject last month the PM said it would be a “general inquiry into all manner of racism and hate crime”, a comment the Muslim Council of Britain said was disappointing.

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