The Government is facing calls for an inquiry into Islamophobia after a Tory MP said she was told she had been fired as a minister due to concerns about her “Muslimness”.
Nusrat Ghani said she was informed by a Government whip that her faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable” when she lost her job as a transport minister in 2020.
The claim was strongly denied by Chief Whip Mark Spencer who said her comments in an interview with The Sunday Times were “defamatory”.
Following the allegations, Labour, backbench Tory MPs and faith groups have called for an investigation to take place into the matter, as well as wider allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
The calls come as pressure mounts over the tactics whips use to convince colleagues to vote with the Government.
Responding to accusations made by Ms Ghani, shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “I know Nus Ghani… I have always found her to be a deeply serious and principled individual. When she makes an allegation like this, I believe her.”
Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Thornberry added that the Conservative Party “just don’t take Islamophobia in their midst seriously”.
She added: “I would like to see an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party in the same way that we quite rightly held an independent inquiry into the poison that is anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”
The Muslim Council of Britain also called for an investigation, led by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Nusrat Ghani’s testimony of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party is shocking, but not surprising.
“That she is experiencing this as a Muslim woman at the top of the party, only reinforces the deep-rooted nature of the problem. Institutional Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has gone on with impunity for far too long.
“Islamophobia should have no place in our politics. If Muslim members of the Conservative Party or any other party are facing prejudice and discrimination, then there is a critical problem. Our political landscape must be fair and inclusive for all.”
On Twitter, Conservative former minister Steve Baker condemned what had happened to his colleague, saying: “That Nus could be treated like this is completely intolerable.
That Nus could be treated like this is completely intolerable.
— Steve Baker MP FRSA (@SteveBakerHW) January 22, 2022
“I value Nus Ghani as a great colleague and I’m appalled. We must get to the bottom of it.”
Tory MP Caroline Nokes, who is chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said she was “appalled” at what happened to Ms Ghani, adding: “I’ve had the most appalling reports to me about what has been said about me in Downing Street.
“And to be quite frank I’m horrified at it, because both Nus and I have sought to be good, hard-working Conservative MPs for our entire parliamentary career and to be talked about in that way, it’s horrific.”
In her interview, Ms Ghani said she had not pursued the matter at the time after being warned she would be “ostracised by colleagues” and her “career and reputation would be destroyed”.
Mr Spencer outed himself as the individual who spoke to Ms Ghani although he strongly denied using the words claimed.
William Wragg, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, is due to meet the Metropolitan Police this week to discuss allegations that Government whips have “blackmailed” colleagues into voting with the Government.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said that while Ms Ghani’s allegation was “incredibly serious” there would be no investigation by the Conservative Party unless she submitted a formal complaint.
A No 10 spokesman confirmed that Ms Ghani had not made a formal complaint, and added: “The Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”