Islamophobia is an 'open secret' in Westminster, Tory peer tells LBC

24 January 2022, 14:50 | Updated: 24 January 2022, 20:49

By Sophie Barnett

Islamophobia is "an open secret" and the Conservative party needs to get its "house in order on the issue", Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has told LBC.

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Baroness Warsi told Iain Dale that she "wasn't shocked" by the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani, who claims she was sacked as a minister due to concerns about her 'Muslimness'.

Ms Warsi said: "It's [Islamophobia] an open secret in Westminster.

"Many of our colleagues know what has been alleged, and have known that for two years, and nothing has been done about it."

She said she has been handing in "case after case after case", with hundreds in total, asking hr Conservative party to "get our house in order".

"In the end action only ever happens when media shine a spotlight," she added, claiming victims feel "ostracised" when they step up and say what's happened.

Her comments come after Downing Street distanced Boris Johnson from controversial remarks made by Tory MP Michael Fabricant, who told LBC Nusrat Ghani's Islamophobia claim was "lame" as she was not somebody who "is obviously a Muslim".

The Lichfield MP has been slammed for comments he made on Andrew Pierce's show on Sunday, where he said Ms Ghani's claim of Islamophobia "stinks".

Ms Ghani has claimed her faith was given as a reason that she was removed from a ministerial role in a "mini-reshuffle" in 2020.

Mr Fabricant declared that "prejudice of any kind is pretty pathetic in modern Britain" but told LBC that in this case he is unsure of the authenticity of Ms Ghani's claim.

"The whole thing actually stinks," he said.

"For her to say that someone said it's because she's a Muslim, I mean, she's hardly someone who's obviously a Muslim," the Conservative MP went on.

Read more: Nus Ghani Islamophobia claim 'lame' as 'it's not apparent' she is Muslim

Read more: No10 faces calls for fresh probe after Tory MP Nus Ghani sacked in 'Muslimness' row

He argued that because Ms Ghani's faith "wasn't apparent" it seems "a rather lame excuse" for her losing her ministerial role.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman has distanced Mr Johnson from the Conservative MP's comments, saying on Monday: "The PM would not agree with the idea that someone's religion determines what someone looks like."

Nusrat Ghani told the Sunday Times chief whip Mark Spencer had told her she'd been sacked as a minister due to concerns about her 'Muslimness'.

Mr Spencer strongly denies the allegation.

Boris Johnson has called for an inquiry into the claims, and told reporters on a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital he was taking Ms Ghani's claims "extremely seriously".

Read more: Raab: Party can't act on Islamophobia claim 'in absence of formal complaint'

"We take these allegations extremely seriously, I took them very seriously when they were raised with me 18 months ago... very glad there's an investigation taking place now," he said.

"I can't say more, really, about it."

Asked if Chief Whip Mark Spencer could stay in post while the investigation was conducted, Mr Johnson dodged the question, saying: "This is something I take personally extremely seriously, I took it very seriously 18 months ago, we must wait and see what the investigation produces."

In a sign of the tensions within the party, Mr Spencer - who admitted speaking to her - angrily denied her claims saying they were "completely false" and "defamatory".

Ms Ghani said she welcomed the Prime Minister's decision to order an investigation into her claims.

Read more: Tory MP: 'I can't see how MPs can be bullied these days'

The Conservative MP for Wealden in East Sussex said: "As I said to the Prime Minister last night, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate.

"I welcome his decision to do that now.

"The terms of reference for the inquiry must include all that was said in Downing Street and by the whip.

"I look forward to seeing the terms of reference."