Tory mayoral hopeful Shaun Bailey urges party to have 'proper conversation' about Islamophobia
The Conservatives need to have a "proper conversation" about tackling Islamophobia, the party's candidate for London mayor has said.
Shaun Bailey said the Tories would do themselves "no favours by tolerating or ignoring" anti-Muslim abuse, amid ongoing scrutiny of the Conservatives' efforts to challenge prejudice in their ranks.
Former Conservative co-chair Baroness Warsi has been sharply critical of party bosses' handling of Islamophobia in recent months, while a string of members have been suspended over online comments targeting Muslims for abuse.
Writing for The Guardian, Mr Bailey warned the party against trying to "avoid difficult conversations" about anti-Islam sentiment.
"I know that difficult conversations don’t become easier the longer you put them off," he said.
"That’s why I know it’s time for Conservatives to have a proper conversation about Islamophobia.
"There is simply too much hate floating around online these days and too much of it is appearing (intentionally or not) under our banner. We must root it out, now."
Mr Bailey meanwhile said his party had a duty to challenge "deeper and broader" prejudice in the wake of this month's Christchurch mosque shootings, which left 50 people dead and scores injured.
"These vicious attacks on minority communities will keep happening unless we bust the myths behind their hatred," he said.
"In the Conservative party, we cannot give cover in any way to those Islamophobes, even if they vote for us. We need to crack down on hate at the source and expel it from our midst.
"We must set clear guidelines as to what is acceptable and then enforce them with 100% effectiveness. Full stop."
The intervention from Mr Bailey, who is hoping to oust incumbent Labour mayor Sadiq Khan in the 2020 London elections, comes after Tory chairman Brandon Lewis insisted there was "absolutely no place" for anti-Muslim discrimination in the party.
Responding to a letter from anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate this week, Mr Lewis said: "Anti-Muslim discrimination undermines society from within and there is absolutely no place for it in this country or in the Conservative Party.
"We take swift action when complaints are made to Conservative Party headquarters (CCHQ), immediately referring them for investigation."
The party this week suspended a string of members after twenty-five self-identifying Conservatives were reported to Tory HQ over anti-Muslim posts on the unofficial 'Jacob Rees-Mogg Supporters Group' Facebook group.
The comments - brought to light by the @MatesJacob Twitter account and passed on to party HQ by BuzzFeed news - included one from a man who posted a photo of himself campaigning for the party and who had joked about killing Muslims.