“We have taken swift action to deal with any Conservative Party member who has been accused of engaging in Islamophobic language or actions. We’ve made sure those people are suspended and there is an investigation"

Michael Gove, Today Programme

November 5, 2019

Claim

Gove also claimed the actions of the Conservative Party were in “stark contrast with what’s been happening in the Labour Party”

Facts

Gove’s boast that the Conservative party cracks down swiftly and effectively on Islamophobic language and actions does not square with the facts. For example, 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 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.” 

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. 

Verdict

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 the above cases. 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. 

In the meantime, all the evidence shows that Michael Gove was lying to the BBC Today Programme when he said that the Conservative Party has taken swift action to deal with Islamophobia, and has suspended those engaging in Islamophobic language or actions. 

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