An investigation has been launched after a Conservative MP claimed she was told she had been sacked because of her ‘Muslimness’.
Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, said she was told by a party whip that her faith had been ‘raised as an issue’ at a meeting in Downing Street after she was sacked as transport minister in 2020, and that her status as a ‘Muslim woman minister’ was ‘making colleagues feel uncomfortable’.
Following the allegations, which were first reported in the Sunday Times, chief whip Mark Spencer – one of the prime minister’s main allies – came forward to identify himself as the person Ghani was referencing, and strongly denied making the remarks, calling the MP’s claims ‘defamatory’.
A Downing Street spokesperson has now confirmed that Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into the alleged incident, saying he was taking Ghani’s claims ‘very seriously’.
‘At the time these allegations were first made, the prime minister recommended to her that she make a formal complaint to CCHQ. She did not take up this offer. The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened,’ Number 10 said.
Johnson had initially rejected calls to launch an investigation, claiming he would not be able to do so unless Ghani made a formal complaint.
However the story has sparked renewed controversy for the prime minister over allegations of Islamophobia within his party, with high profile Muslim ministers including Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Health Secretary Sajid Javid calling for Ghani’s claims to be fully investigated.
During a TV appearance over the weekend Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab described the allegations as ‘incredibly serious’, but also rejected the possibility that an investigation could be launched without a formal complaint. That position now appears to have been reversed.
Ghani become the first Muslim woman to be elected as a Conservative MP in 2015, and described hearing she had been sacked in part due to her faith as ‘like being punched in the stomach’, saying she felt ‘helpless and powerless’.
She went on to claim that she had raised the allegations with Boris Johnson in 2020, but said he had told her he ‘could not get involved’.
Johnson himself has been accused of making discriminatory marks against Muslim women, having previously described women wearing the traditional Muslim Burka as ‘letterboxes’.
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