- Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into claims by Nus Ghani that she was sacked as a minister because of her “Muslimness.”
- The former transport minister said she had been previously told to begin an internal complaints process within the Conservative Party, but felt this was not an appropriate route.
- One former minister said the implication was that “it’s the victim’s fault for not making an official complaint.”
Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into a former minister’s claims that she was sacked because of her “Muslimness.”
Nus Ghani, who was a transport secretary until Johnson’s reshuffle in February 2020, told the Sunday Times that she had been informed by a government whip that her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” by people in 10 Downing Street.
Ghani added that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable.”
Number 10 confirmed on Sunday that Ghani had discussed the matter with the prime minister at the time, describing her claims as “extremely serious.” The spokesperson stressed that while Johnson had invited her to begin a formal complaint process, “she did not subsequently do so.”
Ghani issued a statement yesterday afternoon in response, saying: “[Johnson] wrote to me that he could not get involved and suggested I use the internal Conservative Party complaint process. This…was very clearly not appropriate for something that happened on government business.”
The Conservative MP noted that she did not know if the comments had been made by a member of the party.
This morning, a Number 10 spokesperson confirmed that the prime minister has now asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations.
“At the time these allegations were first made, the prime minister recommended to her that she make a formal complaint to CCHQ,” the spokesperson said. “She did not take up this offer.”
“The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened,” the spokesperson continued. “As he said at the time, the prime minister takes these claims very seriously.”
It is understood that Johnson spoke with Ghani last night to tell her of his plans.
However Conservative colleagues attacked the manner in which the complaint has been handled, suggesting Downing Street was attempting to victim blame. One former minister told Insider the implication was that “it’s the victim’s fault for not making an official complaint”.
The MP added: “This is madness.”
Mark Spencer, the chief whip who was already under pressure to keep his job, identified himself as the individual who had informed her of these comments, adding: “These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s important we deal with this, and deal with this swiftly.”
He stressed that the Conservative party was a “team”, and defended Johnson’s initial response to Ghani’s allegations.
“It’s only right that the Prime Minister spoke to her last night, and asked her to present her evidence to the Cabinet Office,” Zahawi added.
The investigation has been ordered just days before Johnson is expected to learn the outcome of a separate Cabinet Office inquiry, led by Sue Gray, into multiple allegations of illegal parties held at Downing Street during lockdowns.
But asked if the full report would be published, Zahawi told the BBC only the “findings” would be made public, according to the terms of reference. Johnson will then give a statement to the House of Commons.
“That will ensure public confidence,” he added.
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