Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi has called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party, describing the Tory response to claims of anti-Muslim prejudice as “woefully inept”.
Baroness Warsi said Conservatives should learn from Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations and not seek to use promises of action as a “fig leaf” to hide the true extent of the problem.
She said that “absolutely nothing tangible has happened” in response to concerns she has raised over the past three years, including by writing to Prime Minister Theresa May and submitting a six-page dossier of evidence.
And she revealed that she had told the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative parliamentarians that it was time for the party to “move on from the era of ‘F*** the Muslims’.”
Lady Warsi’s call comes after the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) complained that its own request for an inquiry had been ignored by Tory chairman Brandon Lewis and accused the party of “turning a blind eye” to the issue.
The MCB has compiled a dossier listing Conservative councillors and candidates who have been suspended or expelled following allegations of anti-Muslim prejudice.
It voiced concern about the tone of Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 campaign for the London mayoralty, and about social media messages shared by Harrow East MP Bob Blackman – who has denied any allegation of anti-Muslim prejudice.
In an article for The Guardian, Lady Warsi said both Mr Goldsmith and Mr Blackman should receive “mandatory enrolment” on diversity training courses.
Mr Lewis’s promise of voluntary courses for those who want them was “not enough”, she said, warning: “The party needs to be proactive and change its culture.”
“Words without action are at best flannel and at worst represent simple contempt,” wrote Lady Warsi, who was the first female Muslim to attend Cabinet.
“So it’s time for my party to set out its stall. Not only does justice need to be done, it needs to be seen to be done.
“There should be a forensic, wide-ranging and transparent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party. The process should be published, those who are found wanting should be publicly named and membership withdrawn.
“And it needs to be cathartic, allowing witnesses to come forward and tell their stories.”
Lady Warsi said that the time had now passed for an internal party inquiry into Islamophobia, and that only a full, independent inquiry would give the Tories the chance to show they deplore prejudice and are ready to stamp it out.
She welcomed Mrs May’s declaration at Prime Minister’s Questions last week that “anti-Muslim discrimination is wrong. There is no place for it in our society”.
But she said that Mr Lewis’s announcement that the party would work with hate crime reporting service TellMama was “odd”, as the prejudices complained of were rarely of a level that would require prosecution.
“For years I have argued that an internal inquiry was the solution to this mess,” she said.
“Unfortunately the time for that has now long passed. As a plethora of people and organisations have said, only with a full, independent inquiry can we truly become the party we claim to be: One that deplores prejudice in all its forms and stamps it out wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”