A Muslim MP says her faith was raised by a government MP as a reason for her sacking as a minister in 2020.
Nusrat Ghani said a government whip told her “Muslimness was raised as an issue”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a Cabinet Office inquiry into the claims. Conservative MP Ghani welcomed the inquiry, saying all she wanted was for the matter to be taken seriously.
Ms Ghani was appointed to a post at the Department for Transport in 2018, becoming the first female Muslim minister to speak in the Commons. She lost that job in a mini-reshuffle of Mr Johnson’s government in February 2020.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Ms Ghani said that when she asked for an explanation, a government whip had told her that “Muslimness was raised as an issue” during discussions about the reshuffle, and her status as a “Muslim woman… was making colleagues uncomfortable”.
The Wealden MP is quoted as saying she dropped the matter after being told that if she “persisted” in asking about it she “would be ostracised and her career and reputation would be destroyed”.
“I raised it several more times through official party channels…. I was extremely careful to follow procedure, and when the procedure ran out of road I had no choice but to get on with my career.
Conservative Chief Whip Mark Spencer said the claims were completely false. He said Ms Ghani was referring to him and that he considered her allegations to be defamatory and denied ever using the words Ms Ghani had alleged.
Conservative Chief Whip Mark Spencer (Photo: PA Media)
He said he had previously provided evidence to the Singh investigation – which examined how the Conservative Party dealt with discrimination complaints.
Initially Mr Spencer said the investigation “concluded there was no credible basis for the claims”, but later rewrote the post adding the words “to be included in the report” to the end of the sentence.
Prof Singh’s 2021 report found that while “not systemic” there was “evidence of discrimination” in the Conservative Party, and it called for the complaints process to be overhauled.
In a tweet, Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, said there was “no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism” in the Conservative Party, adding that the allegations had to be “investigated properly and racism routed out”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid also said the matter needed “a proper investigation” and that he would support Ms Ghani “in making a formal complaint”. “She must be heard,” he added.
Lord Sheikh, president of Conservative Muslim Forum, said he was “very disturbed” by what Ms Ghani had said.
“Somebody is not telling the truth. I would like to get to the bottom of this. I’d like an investigation to be carried out by an independent person,” he added.