British Prime Minister Boris Johnson orders an investigation into a Conservative lawmaker’s claim that she was fired from a government job in part because of her Muslim faith — the latest allegation of wrongdoing that is shaking the Conservative government and Johnson’s grip on power.
Former Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani says that when she was demoted in 2020, a government whip said her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable.” She told the Sunday Times that 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.’”
Chief Whip Mark Spencer has identified himself as the person who spoke to Ghani in 2020, but called her allegation “completely false.”
Johnson’s office says that the prime minister had asked government officials “to establish the facts about what happened.” It said Johnson “takes these claims very seriously.”
Ghani was elected to Parliament in 2015 — the Conservatives’ first female Muslim lawmaker — and was made a junior minister in 2018. At the time her boss, then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, said it was proof the Conservatives “were a party of opportunity.” But some have accused the party of failing to stamp out anti-Muslim prejudice under Johnson, who in 2018 compared women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”
Two senior Cabinet ministers, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, spoke in support of Ghani and said her claims must be investigated.
Ghani’s claim has deepened the rifts roiling Johnson’s governing party, which is being wracked by allegations about lockdown-breaching parties in the prime minister’s office while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions.
The “partygate” allegations have infuriated many in Britain, who were barred from meeting up with friends and family for months in 2020 and 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19. They are being investigated by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, whose report, expected this week, will be a pivotal moment for the prime minister.