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Tory James Gray Faces Temporary Suspension From St John Ambulance Role After Alleged 'Racist' Remark

© Photo : SJA Tory MP James Gray, Nadhim Zahawi and SJA chief exec Martin Houghton-Brown at the event
Tory MP James Gray, Nadhim Zahawi and SJA chief exec Martin Houghton-Brown at the event - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.10.2021
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The incident follows a scandal when Tory member James Gray had to apologise after saying that "a bomb" should be placed in the office of Labour chair Anneliese Dodds, who also serves as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.
UK Conservative lawmaker James Gray faces suspension as St John Ambulance's "commander of charity" amid unconfirmed reports about a racist remark during last month's incident in parliament involving then-Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
The Telegraph cited a St John Ambulance spokesperson as saying on Monday that the 66-year-old had been asked to temporarily step back from his charity activities "for the time being to reflect on the incident".

"St John does not tolerate racism in any way, shape, or form. We spoke with James Gray following the event about our values as an open, inclusive and progressive charity", the spokesperson stressed in a statement.

The incident occurred on 8 September, when Gray hosted a parliamentary reception to thank St John Ambulance staff and volunteers for their "extraordinary" efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Zahawi and Javid attended the reception as guests.
© REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAYBritain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid walks outside Downing Street in London
Britain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid walks outside Downing Street in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.10.2021
Britain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid walks outside Downing Street in London
During the speech, Gray tried to mistakenly introduce Zahawi to the audience as the health secretary and after the 66-year-old's error was pointed out to him, he reportedly told the 50 guests: "They all look the same to me".
The Daily Mail cited an unnamed eyewitness as saying that Zahawi "immediately" had a private conversation with Gray after the incident.

A Conservative Party spokeswoman, in turn, claimed that Gray's comments "were misjudged", adding that the party does not "tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind".

The 66-year-old, for his part, acknowledged in an interview with the Daily Mail that the mix-up indeed happened, while denying he had made the "they all look the same to me" remark.
At the same time, Gray admitted to mixing up Zahawi and Javid as he added, "I said: 'I am sorry to confuse the two of you. You two look very alike'. I said 'I am sorry if I got you two mixed up'".

"The notion that this is some sort of racist remark is ridiculous. They are two very good friends of mine", Gray argued.

The Daily Mail also cited an unnamed source close to Zahawi as saying that Gray had not meant to hurt the two and had "apologised profusely".
The incident comes a few weeks after the 66-year-old Tory had to extend apologies to Anneliese Dodds, chairman of the Labour Party and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, after Gray joked about planting a bomb in her office.
This came after another Conservative Party member asked colleagues in a Tory WhatsApp group for the location of Dodds' office so they could deliver something to her. Gray reportedly replied: "A bomb, perhaps?"
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