A Conservative MP has accused a government whip of telling her that she was sacked from her ministerial post because her Muslim faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.
Nusrat Ghani lost her job as a transport minister in a mini-reshuffle in February 2020 after the resignation of Sajid Javid as chancellor.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, she said that in a briefing afterwards with the whips, she was told that “Muslimness” had been raised as an problem at a meeting in Downing Street.
“It was like being punched in the stomach,” the MP for Wealden told the paper. “I felt humiliated and powerless. I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim women minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable and that there were concerns that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.
“When I challenged whether this was in any way acceptable and made clear there was little I could do about my identity, I had to listen to a monologue on how hard it was to define when people are being racist and that the party doesn’t have a problem and I needed to do more to defend it.
“It was very clear to me that the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith.”
Nadhim Zahawi has called for an investigation into the claims. “There is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our Conservative party,” the education secretary said. “Nus Ghani is a friend, a colleague and a brilliant parliamentarian.
“This has to be investigated properly and racism rooted out.”
The comments come as the conduct of the whips’ office is under intense scrutiny amid accusations they used intimidation and blackmail to pressurise MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson as prime minister.
The senior Tory who first raised the allegation, William Wragg – the chair of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee – praised Ghani’s courage in speaking out.
“Nus is very brave to speak out,” he tweeted. “I was truly appalled to learn of her experience. She shows such strength and integrity supporting others.”
A spokesman for the whips’ office said the allegations were “categorically untrue” and that the Conservative party did not tolerate racism or discrimination.