“If anybody is convicted, if anybody is done for Islamophobia, or any other prejudice or discrimination in the Conservative Party they are out first bounce”
Boris Johnson, to television cameras
The above statement was no casual remark. Johnson repeated it the following day when asked if he would apologise for Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. He said: “We have a one bounce and we deal with it approach”. He added that the party had a “zero tolerance policy towards Islamophobia.
The Tory candidate for Lincoln, Karl McCartney, has repeatedly retweeted far-right activists Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins, including a post by Robinson claiming he had been jailed for “reporting on Muslim paedophiles”. The anti-racism group Hope Not Hate said he had shared both “anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic material.” He has apparently faced no disciplinary action.
The Tory candidate for Brent North, Anjana Patel, in March sent an unprovoked tweet to Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai appearing to suggest that Yousafzai was in part responsible for the alleged kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam of two Hindu girls in Pakistan. “The world should know about this barbaric act by Islamists,” Patel wrote. “Don’t block me. How are you going to help?” The Conservative Party later confirmed to LBC that it had “concluded” an investigation into Patel’s case. Her Twitter account was deleted and replaced with a new one. She has apparently faced no disciplinary action.
The Tory candidate for South Cambridgeshire, Anthony Browne, a former advisor to Johnson, wrote an article for The Spectator in 2002 in which he said immigrants were to blame for bringing germs and HIV to the UK and accused Muslims of having “divided loyalties”. He has not been suspended. Responding to the finding by The Guardian, a Conservative party spokesperson said: “These comments were made over 15 years ago, Anthony Browne has apologised for these comments and sincerely regrets them.”
Tory councillor David Abbott was suspended in April for making anti-Muslim remarks on Facebook including one which said: “Moslems are commanded to do everything in their power, including killing, to rid the world of every person who does not follow Islam.” As well as the anachronistic spelling “Moslems”, Abbott repeatedly used in his posts the anachronism “Mohammedans” to refer to Muslims. Abbott appears to have been reinstated to the party. The Houghton Regis Town Council website lists him as a Conservative.
Deputy chair of the Stourbridge Conservative Association Kyle Pedley resigned in November accusing the association of Islamophobia. He alleged that in a selection interview for the local council the association had launched a “barrage of questioning” at a candidate about whether he was a Muslim. “It was ‘Are you really a Muslim? Do you pray five times a day? How many times a year do you go to the mosque?’” Pedley told the BBC. “When he went out of the room the first topic of conversation was not about his merit, it was along the lines of ‘do we need an Asian?’” Pedley said other than an acknowledgement the party had not opened an investigation.
In April, before Johnson became prime minister, then Tory Party Chairman Brandon Lewis admitted that the party had readmitted councillors found to have made Islamophobic statements. The Guardian revealed that 15 had been quietly reinstated. Lewis said: “We have reinstated some councillors, not 15, but some councillors who where originally, whether it was years ago or recently, been suspended for Muslim hate crime.”
I went out of my way to contact the Conservative Party about these ugly cases. On the afternoon of Monday 2 December I sent a long series of questions via email. I asked whether the party had investigated or planned to investigate. If it had not or did not plan to, why not? I set a deadline of the end of Tuesday 3 December. When I had not received an answer by Wednesday morning, I rang to see what had happened. A press officer said he had not received the email. So I sent it again, this time setting a new deadline of the end of that day. Still no answer. If and when I receive a response from the Conservative party I will happily publish it.
Unless the Conservative party provides evidence to the contrary, there is no avoiding the conclusion that Boris Johnson was lying to television viewers when he told them that the Tory party had a “one bounce” policy on dealing with cases involving Islamophobia.