Nusrat Ghani’s claim of Islamophobia a ‘lame excuse’ for sacking, says Michael ...
LBC

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant has been slammed after suggesting MP Nusrat Ghani’s claims of Islamophobia are bogus as “most people wouldn't have had a clue whether she was Muslim or not.”

Conservative MP Ghani claims she was sacked as a transport minister in the February 2020 reshuffle over concerns about her “Muslimness”. She told The Times that she was told that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.

This morning the prime minister ordered an inquiry into the claims made by the party’s first female Muslim MP.

The allegations come during what’s set to be a turbulent week in Whitehall. Sue Gray’s report into the alleged lockdown-breaking parties is expected later this week, and the government faces “blackmail” accusations.

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Michael Fabricant sparked controversy when he said the timing of Ghani’s claim was “very suspicious”, and suggested it was linked to moves to get rid of Boris Johnson over the Downing Street lockdown parties scandal.

Speaking on LBC, Mr Fabricant said: “The timing is interesting. I think all this is because it’s open season on Boris Johnson, putting pressure on him from the party trying to try and get him to resign.”

He continued: “I think the whole thing actually stinks, the accusation being made by Nus Ghani… she’s hardly someone who is obviously a Muslim. I had no idea what religion she is… it does seem rather a lame excuse to me that she claims she was sacked because of that.”

He also tweeted: “A former minister who had been plotting against #Boris for some time now suddenly blames her sacking on #Islamophobia when (a) there are many excellent Muslim ministers in the Government and (b) she was nice but unimaginative and mediocre.”

Since then, Fabricant has been criticised by fellow politicians. Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy responded to his LBC appearance, tweeting: “What an appalling, disgraceful thing to say.

“If the Tories wanted to show they were serious about tackling Islamophobia, they could start by removing the whip from Michael Fabricant.”

Responding to Lammy, Fabricant doubled down but stressed that “prejudice is unforgivable”:

Speaking to Kay Burley this morning, Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds said action should be taken by the Conservative party in light of Fabricant’s comments.

Dodds, the shadow secretary for women and equalities, said: “Obviously those comments were deeply offensive, they’re not of, in any way, the standard one would expect from a serving member of parliament.

“This just underlines again the need for the government of this country to actually start taking Islamophobia seriously.”

Back when Ghani first raised her concerns with Johnson directly after losing her job in the 2020 ministerial reshuffle, he reportedly told her he couldn’t get involved.

Chief Whip Mark Spencer, who has admitted speaking to her, angrily denied her claims, saying they were “completely false” and “defamatory”.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP.

“At the time these allegations were first made, the prime minister recommended to her that she make a formal complain to CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters).

“She did not take up this offer.

“The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened.

“As he said at the time, the prime minister takes these claims very seriously.”

Ghani, the MP for Wealden in East Sussex, said she welcomed the announcement and called for the scope of the probe to include what was said between her and “the whip” in Downing Street.

In a statement posted on Twitter, she stated: “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.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who on Sunday backed a probe into the allegations, said it was “important” the matter was looked into “properly”.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday, the Cabinet minister said: “She has made a very serious allegation, the prime minister spoke to her last night and said the Cabinet Office will investigate this and look at the detail of this.”

Indy100 has contacted Michael Fabricant for comment.

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