Boris Johnson met Nusrat Ghani to discuss Islamophobia allegations in 2020, No 10 reveals

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Boris Johnson met Nusrat Ghani to discuss Islamophobia allegations in 2020, No 10 reveals
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Boris Johnson met with an MP over “extremely serious claims” of Islamophobia in the summer of 2020 and invited her to make a formal complaint, No 10 has said.

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It comes after Nusrat Ghani alleged that she was informed by a government whip her Muslim faith was “making colleagues feel uncomfortable” when she lost her job as a transport minister.

Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, said on Sunday that there will not be a “specific investigation” into Ms Ghani’s allegations until a formal complaint has been made by the Conservative MP for Wealden.

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A No 10 spokesperson later said: “After being made aware of these extremely serious claims, the prime minister met with Nusrat Ghani to discuss them.

“He then wrote to her expressing his serious concern and inviting her to begin a formal complaint process. She did not subsequently do so. The Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”

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In her interview with The Sunday Times, however, Ms Ghani had suggested she had not pursued the matter at the time, after being warned she be “ostracised by colleagues” and her “career and reputation would be destroyed”.

The former minister said she was shocked when the issue of her background and faith was raised during a meeting in the whips’ office after the mini-reshuffle in February 2020. “It was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless,” she told the newspaper.

The alleged remarks brought immediate condemnation from her colleagues on the backbenches and also led to calls for an investigation, including from cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi, who said there was “no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism” in the party.

Emily Thornberry, a Labour frontbencher, also demanded the Conservatives hold an an independent inquiry into Islamophobia after the explosive claims, claiming the party “just don’t take Islamophobia in their midst seriously”.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Raab, the deputy prime minister and justice secretary, described the allegations — denied by the chief whip, Mark Spencer— as “incredibly serious”, but said a formal complaint had to be submitted before an investigation is launched.

“I’ve looked at that allegation and seen what she’s said, it is incredibly serious,” he said. “Let me just be clear at the outset we have absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination or Islamophobia in the Conservative Party”.

“On the specific allegations, it’s very unusual that the chief whip has come out and said the conversation concerned was with him, Mark Spencer, and he has categorically denied in the what can only be described as the most forthright and robust terms.”

After Ms Ghani’s interview in The Sunday Times, Mr Spencer, the chief whip, took the unusual step of outing himself as the individual who spoke to the Conservative MP – although he strongly denied using the words claimed.

“To ensure other whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about this evening,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”

He added: “It is disappointing that when this issue was raised before Ms Ghani declined to refer the matter to the Conservative Party for a formal investigation. I provided evidence to the Singh Investigation into Islamophobia which concluded that there was no credible basis for the claims.”

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