Were Nusrat Ghani’s ‘origins’ and ‘faith’ instrumental in his ousting from the UK government in the 2020 reshuffle? In any case, this is what the former Deputy Minister of Transport says in an interview published this Sunday, January 23 by the Sunday Times.
Nusrat Ghani, 49, claims this version of the story was presented to him by an executive of the Conservative Party, the party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street my ‘Muslim faith’ had been raised as ‘an issue’, that a Muslim woman in government was making my colleagues uncomfortable and that it was worried that I was not loyal to the party because I was not doing enough to defend it against allegations of Islamophobia”.
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.
These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me
—Mark Spencer (@Mark_Spencer) January 22, 2022
This is indeed not the first time that the Conservatives have responded to such accusations. They have long been criticized for allowing Islamophobia to flourish in their ranks and, in May 2021, a report even concluded that “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the party”. According to this document, the group of Boris Johnson would be confronted with Islamophobia at the local or individual levels but not “institutional”.
Nusrat Ghani explains that these revelations had the effect of “a punch in the stomach”. Feeling “humiliated and helpless”, she says she did not speak about it at the time because she was warned that she would be “ostracized by her colleagues” and that her “career and reputation would be destroyed”.
No official complaint according to Downing street
On Twitter, one of the executives of the conservative party, Mark Spencer, identified himself as the person targeted by the remarks of the former British deputy transport minister, while denying his involvement. “These accusations are totally false and I consider them defamatory,” he wrote.
Assuring that “the Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind”, a spokesperson for Downing Street indicated that Boris Johnson had been “made aware of these extremely serious allegations”. According to the same source, the Prime Minister met with Nusrat Ghani and “wrote to him expressing his deep concern and inviting him to initiate a formal complaint procedure”. What she would “not have done afterwards”.
Within the British government, the case caused a reaction. Nadhim Zahawi, Minister of Education, has asked for an “appropriate investigation” to be carried out to clarify this story. But his counterpart in Justice, Dominic Raab, warned this Sunday morning on the BBC that no investigation would take place if Nusrat Ghani did not officially file an internal complaint. This, even if his accusations are according to him “very serious”.