WWHILE political London – and presumably the Prime Minister himself – awaits the report on the “party affair”, Boris Johnson on Monday ordered another internal Cabinet Office inquiry. This is intended to clarify allegations made by MP Nusrat Ghani over the weekend. In a newspaper interview, the conservative politician complained about the reasoning behind her being stripped of her post as state secretary in the transport ministry during a cabinet reshuffle two years ago. She was said to have been informed at the time that her colleagues did not feel comfortable with her “Muslimness”.
Shortly after the allegation was made public, “Chief Whip” Mark Spencer admitted to having had the conversation with her, but called Ghani’s account of what was said “false” and “defamatory”. In the British Westminster Democracy, members of the parliamentary group leadership are referred to as “whips”, who – in close coordination with the party leader – are supposed to bring the MPs into line. Sometimes they are also responsible for the execution of personnel decisions. The Conservative Whips have come under fire since a Tory MP accused them of operating with intimidation bordering on blackmail. Several MPs have been threatened with withdrawing public investment from their constituencies if they continue to campaign for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.
There was already an investigation
Opposition politicians had called for an investigation into these allegations last week, but the government sees “no clues”. While Labor and Libdems MPs bemoaned brutal conditions and “mafia methods”, many Conservative MPs spoke of normal operations. A now non-party member of the House of Lords told this newspaper: “Something like this happens every day and in every party.” She was also regularly threatened with career consequences in her old party – not the conservative one.
Accusations of tolerating anti-Muslim resentments within their own ranks are being given more weight in the government. They are taken “extremely seriously,” Johnson said. Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Health Minister Sajid Javid, the two most senior Muslims in the cabinet, backed Ghani and welcomed Johnson’s decision to have the allegations investigated. Opposition politicians criticized that this is only happening now. Ghani complained to Johnson immediately after her dismissal, who apparently only advised her to go through the usual complaints channel through the party.
Last May, an inquiry launched by Johnson into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party ended with the conclusion that anti-Muslim resentment was mainly to be found in the local branches and “remains a problem” but was not isolated from “institutional racism” in the party let speak. The report also looked at statements by prominent politicians, including Johnson himself. When he was a journalist, he had compared Muslim women in burqas to “mailboxes” – a phrase he later said as prime minister “would not use again “. The head of the study, Warwick University professor of psychiatry Swaran Singh, at the time saw the Tories “not as a party that systematically discriminates against a particular group,” drawing criticism from Muslims.
A look at the staff of the conservative government does not allow the conclusion that a different faith or a foreign origin has a career-inhibiting effect. In the key resorts, “white Britons” are even in the minority. The ministries of finance, interior, economy, health and education as well as the office of the general prosecutor are occupied by men and women with a migration background.