LONDON â€”Â Â A Conservative Cabinet minister has called for an investigation into allegations a Muslim Conservative MP was told she had lost her job because of her faith.
Nusrat Ghani, who was sacked as a transport minister in early 2020, claimed in the Sunday Times that a party whip, appointed by the prime minister to organize MPs and keep discipline in parliament, told her that her â€œMuslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable.â€
Mark Spencer, the governmentâ€™s chief whip, last night said on Twitter he was â€œidentifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about this eveningâ€ to ensure other whips were not drawn into the matter.
â€œThese accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me,â€ he said.
A spokesperson for the whipsâ€™ office told the Sunday Times: â€œThese claims are categorically untrue. Ministerial roles are appointed on merit and rewards for hard work. The party does not tolerate any form of racism or discrimination.â€
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said an investigation into the claim was now needed. â€œThere is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our Conservative Party,â€ he tweeted. â€œNus Ghani is a friend, a colleague and a brilliant parliamentarian. This has to be investigated properly and racism routed out.â€
Ghani, the first Muslim woman to be elected a Tory MP, told the Sunday Times she had a meeting with a government whip in March 2020, a month after she lost her job in the February 2020 government reshuffle.
She said her â€œMuslimnessâ€ was raised as an issue during the meeting in Downing Street and that her status as â€œMuslim woman ministerâ€ was making colleagues â€œuncomfortable.â€ There were also concerns Ghani â€œwasnâ€™t loyal to the party as I didnâ€™t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations,â€ she said.
â€œIt was very clear to me the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith,â€ she said.
An inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, published in May last year, was critical of senior Tory figures including Boris Johnson, but found that claims of â€œinstitutional racismâ€ were not borne out by evidence.
Speaking on Sunday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News the allegation was â€œincredibly seriousâ€ but insisted there is â€œzero tolerance for any discrimination and any Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.â€
He added that â€œclaims like thisâ€ should result â€œin a formal complaint which allows a formal investigation to take place.â€ But as Ghani hasnâ€™t made a formal complaint, â€œthere will be no specific investigation into this.â€