Tories failing to tackle Islamophobia in their ranks, claims former party chair Lady Warsi
The Conservative Party is failing to do enough to tackle Islamophobia among its members, according to its Muslim former chair.
Sayeeda Warsi said accused Boris Johnson of "diluting" a planned probe into the issue by saying it will now be a "general investigation into prejudice" within the Conservatives.
Her comments came after the party was forced to suspend a host of sitting and former councillors for posting Islamophobic content on social media.
A dossier published by The Guardian revealed statements from 25 members calling for mosques to be banned and labelling Muslims “barbarians” and “the enemy within”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Baroness Warsi, who was Tory co-chair between 2010 and 2012, said the party has "an institutional problem" with Islamophobia but is being “dismissive” about it.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s decision to widen the investigation into prejudice, she said: “I welcome any form of an inquiry.
“I've got to the point where beggars can't be choosers any more.
“But I am disappointed that the party, having now realised that there is a problem in relation to a specific form of racism is still trying to absolve its responsibility by diluting what it is that its going to look at.”
The peer added: “Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party, three chairman later, two Prime Ministers later.
“The fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.
“Let’s not forget that that the first issue raised by my colleagues and indeed the previous prime minister was that there really was no evidence of Islamophobia.
“Well, here we are four years later with dossier after dossier, dozens of dozens of cases being presented with the most vile evidence of racism within the party at every level from members of parliament all the way down to ordinary activists.”
Asked on the same programme about ditching his pledge to hold an independent inquiry Cabinet minister Michael Gove said "we have tackled Islamophobia firmly and clearly".
Mr Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, had told the programme last week the party would “absolutely” hold an “independent inquiry into Islamophobia… before the end of the year”.
He said: “I said in terms when I appeared on your programme last week that we would have an inquiry into Islamophobia and prejudice.
“I said that we needed to tackle prejudice and racism in all its forms.”
He added: “We have taken swift action to deal with any Conservative Party member who has been accused of engaging in Islamophobic language or actions, we've made sure those people are suspended and there is an investigation into that and there is a stark contrast with what's been happening in the Labour party."