UK Chief Whip Speaks Out as Female Tory MP Claims She Was Fired Over Her 'Muslimness'
08:20 GMT 23.01.2022 (Updated: 04:17 GMT 24.01.2022)
In an interview with The Times on Sunday, former UK Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani argued that her Muslim faith had been raised as a problem at a Downing Street "reshuffle meeting" in February 2020, where she purportedly felt like she was "being punched in the stomach".
UK Chief Whip Mark Spencer has said that a female Tory lawmaker was referring to him when she claimed she was sacked as transport minister in 2020 partly because her Muslim faith was making colleagues feel uneasy.
Spencer took to Twitter on Sunday to say he was "identifying himself" as the person Nusrat Ghani MP "has made claims about".
At the same time, he argued that "these accusations are completely false" and he considers them "to be defamatory", adding that he "never used those words attributed" to him.
The chief whip expressed disappointment that "when this issue was raised" in March 2020, Ghani refused "to refer the matter to the Conservative Party for a formal investigation".
Spencer also argued that he had "provided evidence to the Singh Investigation into Islamophobia which concluded that there was no credible basis for the claims". The whip was apparently referring to a report in May 2021 that scolded the Boris Johnson government's position on complaints of discrimination against Muslims in Britain.
The report also prompted Johnson to extend apologies for any offence caused by his past Islam-related remarks, including those in a newspaper column in which he referred to women wearing burqas as "going around looking like letterboxes".
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has, meanwhile, called to launch a probe into Ghani's claims, warning that "there is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our Conservative Party".
"Nus Ghani is a friend, a colleague, and a brilliant parliamentarian. This has to be investigated properly and racism rooted out", Zahawi said.
A No 10 spokesperson, in turn, said on Sunday that Prime Minister Johnson had met Ghani to discuss the matter.
This followed Ghani claiming in an interview with The Times that she was told that at the 2020 reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that "Muslimness" was raised as an "issue", and that her "Muslim woman minister" status was making colleagues "uncomfortable".
The ex-transport minister also alleged that she was told "there were concerns" that she "wasn't loyal to the party" as she "didn't do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations". According to her, all this "was like being punched in the stomach".
A spokesperson for the whips' office rejected Ghani's claims as "categorically untrue", stressing that the Conservative Party did not tolerate racism or discrimination.
The whips' office remains under scrutiny amid accusations that they used blackmail to intimidate those lawmakers who want to force the PM out of office over the "partygate" scandal
. The MPs are awaiting the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray's report on a host of No 10 lockdown-breaking parties held in 2020 and 2021. The report is expected to be released next week.
William Wragg, a senior Tory backbencher who first raised the "intimidation" allegations
that Johnson rejects, has since lauded Ghani's resolve regarding her interview with The Times
"Nus is very brave to speak out. I was truly appalled to learn of her experience. She shows such strength and integrity supporting others. I am proud to have her as my friend and colleague", Wragg tweeted.