Intl desk, Jan 23: A Muslim MP says her faith was raised by a government whip as a reason why she was sacked as a minister in 2020.
According to the Sunday Times, Tory Nusrat Ghani says when she asked for an explanation it was stated her “Muslimness was raised as an issue”.
Conservative Chief Whip Mark Spencer said Ms Ghani was referring to him and added her claims were completely false and he considered them defamatory.
Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi has said the allegation should be investigated.
Speaking to Sky News, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the allegations were “extremely serious” but there would not be a formal investigation unless Ms Ghani made a formal complaint.
Ms Ghani was appointed to a post at the Department for Transport in 2018 but lost that job in a mini-reshuffle of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in February 2020.
Speaking to the Sunday Times Ms Ghani says when she asked for an explanation a government whip said her “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”.
On Saturday night, Mr Spencer identified himself as the person Ms Ghani’s claims were made about.
He said the accusations were “completely false and defamatory” and denied ever using the words Ms Ghani had alleged.
Mr Spencer went on to say it was “disappointing” that at the time she had declined to refer the matter for a formal Conservative Party investigation.
In a tweet, Mr 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”.
Ms Ghani’s allegations follow claims by senior Conservative backbencher William Wragg that Downing Street tried to “blackmail” MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson.
Mr Wragg said he will be speaking to a Met Police detective in the House of Commons next week.
The MP for Hazel Grove said he wanted to leave any probe to “experts” rather than No 10.
Downing Street said it had not seen any proof of the behaviour he alleges.
Last week a spokesman said they were not investigating the allegations but would look “carefully” at any evidence presented to them.
Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, said he had spoken to about a dozen Tory MPs in the past few days who had made similar allegations of whips threatening to withdraw funding for their constituencies, including for campaigning and infrastructure such as bypasses and schools.
The prime minister said he had seen no evidence to support Mr Wragg’s allegations.
No 10 and Tory whips – the MPs in charge of party discipline – are trying to shore up support for Mr Johnson ahead of Ms Gray’s report which is expected next week.
Some Conservative MPs have called on Mr Johnson to resign after he admitted attending a drinks event at No 10 during the first lockdown, although he says he believed it was a work event.
So far six Tory MPs have publicly declared no confidence in the PM, but more are thought to have submitted letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, who organises Tory leadership contests.
Under party rules, if 54 letters are submitted a no confidence vote is triggered which could result in a leadership election.
Source: News Agencies and BBC