0504 GMT May 26, 2022
Nusrat Ghani, 49, who lost her job as a junior transport minister in February 2020, told the paper that she had been told by a “whip” – an enforcer of parliamentary discipline – that her “Muslimness” had been raised as an issue in her sacking.
“I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim woman minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable,” the paper quoted Ghani as saying.
“I will not pretend that this hasn’t shaken my faith in the party and I have at times seriously considered whether to continue as an MP.”
The allegation added to the turmoil Johnson’s government is facing over parties held at his Downing Street office during COVID-19 lockdowns, Reuters wrote.
Ghani’s remarks come after one of her Conservative colleagues said he would meet police to discuss accusations that government whips had attempted to “blackmail” lawmakers suspected of trying to force Johnson from office over the lockdown parties.
The scandals have drained public support from both Johnson personally and his party, presenting him with the most serious crisis of his premiership.
She also said she was told “there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.’”
“It was like being punched in the stomach,” said Ghani. “I felt humiliated and powerless.”
The government’s chief whip, Mark Spencer, said he was the person at the centre of Ghani’s allegations.
“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory,” he said on Twitter. “I have never used those words attributed to me.”
The Conservative Party has previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, and a report in May last year criticised it over how it dealt with complaints of discrimination against Muslims.
The report also led Johnson to issue a qualified apology for any offence caused by his past remarks about Islam, including a newspaper column in which he referred to women wearing burqas as “going around looking like letterboxes”.
The main opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Conservatives must investigate Ghani’s account immediately.
“This is shocking to read,” he said on Twitter.