Nusrat Ghani: a Muslim pioneer who was unexpectedly sacked

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Nusrat Ghani has been first many times. She was the first Muslim minister to speak from the Commons dispatch box, the first Muslim woman elected as a Tory MP in 2015, the first woman to represent the Conservative stronghold of Wealden, East Sussex and has said she was the first woman in her family to attend university.

Born in Kashmir to Pakistani parents, Ghani, 49, grew up in Birmingham before studying at Birmingham City University and Leeds. She worked in an investment bank, charities and the BBC World Service before an unsuccessful attempt at election in 2010 for the seat of Birmingham Ladywood.

Ghani was appointed a member of the home affairs select committee in 2015 and backed Brexit in the EU referendum in 2016. She was promoted to assistant whip and transport minister in 2018 under Theresa May, which the former transport secretary Chris Grayling said at the time showed the Conservatives “were a party of opportunity”.

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Ghani wrote on her website: “A century after women got the vote for the first time, I hope that today young people can see that regardless of their background, faith, race, gender or sexuality, there will be a warm welcome on the green benches, and no matter where you are from you can achieve your dreams and ambitions.”

While a minister, Ghani revealed she had been bombarded with emails from a Conservative activist and constituent praising Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech and questioning whether immigrants should be allowed to stand for parliament. She has also detailed an “incredibly draining” ordeal where she was stalked for two years by a man she said eventually made clear that he had targeted her because she was a female MP, Asian and a Muslim.

In February 2020, Ghani was replaced by Kelly Tolhurst in a reshuffle. The Guardian reported that Ghani had been widely tipped for a job overseeing HS2 but was sacked without explanation.

A few months later, the former minister said ethnic minorities had “had enough of warm words and zero action” from the government. Following Boris Johnson’s announcement of a commission on racial inequality, Ghani said on Twitter that the prime minister needed to “crack on with real practical solutions”.

Ghani is a steering committee member of the Covid Recovery Group, a group of Tory MPs who have opposed lockdown measures.

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