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Conservative Party racism inquiry - Hope not hate submission of evidence

This document and related YouGov polling shows the wide extent of anti-Muslim prejudice within the Conservative Party. I explain the historical background.

Summary

Posted 27 October 2020

As explained on their website, the HOPE not hate campaign was founded in 2004 to provide a positive antidote to the politics of hate.

On 30 September 2020, they added a page to their website “The Deep Roots of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.” That page includes a link to their submission of evidence to the Conservative Party Inquiry on all Forms of Racism Including Islamophobia.

The document contains a preliminary discussion of the general problem of anti-Muslim attitudes within the Conservative Party. It then then itemises 40 specific cases of anti-Muslim behaviour by Conservative Party members, including many elected councillors and two MPs, which Hope not hate would like the inquiry to consider.

Background to the inquiry

Racism and religious bigotry both have a long history in Britain, as in many other societies. Fortunately long-term social attitudes measurement shows that over the decades racism has been in a steady downtrend.

See for example the blog post by Professor of Political Science at the University of Manchester Robert Ford "The decline of racial prejudice in Britain."

While prejudice can be found within all political parties, it is not distributed evenly. My 2012 article "The Conservative Party's need to exorcise Enoch Powell's ghost" discussed the particular problem the Conservative Party has always had; something David Cameron did much to reduce.

The prevalence of anti-Muslim prejudice amongst Conservative Party members became increasing clear during the spring of 2018. First the Muslim Council of Britain and then Baroness Warsi and Lord Sheikh (both Conservative peers) called for an independent inquiry into anti-Muslim sentiment within the Conservative Party.

Accordingly, on 4 June 2018 the Conservative Muslim Forum which I then chaired sent an open letter to Conservative Party Leader Theresa May, signed by me, also calling for such an inquiry. Around that time, there was a significant amount of media interest, which grew even greater after Boris Johnson wrote his famous (or infamous) “niqab and burqa article” in the Telegraph. See my page “The toxification of politics threatens us all.”

I also had quite a lot of contact with the Party Chairman and others within the Party about related issues. However, the problem never went away, and if anything got worse. The Conservative Party's attention was perhaps distracted from such issues by the all consuming nature of Brexit at that time.

During the Conservative Party leadership hustings in June 2019, Sajid Javid promised to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, and "bounced" his fellow candidates into also promising to hold such an inquiry. See the 19 June 2019 BBC News website story "Tory leadership rivals back Islamophobia inquiry."

Almost immediately, Boris Johnson began to back-pedal from the promised inquiry. See the 28 July 2019 Guardian story "Tory Islamophobia: Johnson faces calls to honour pledge on inquiry."

Eventually, what was originally promised as an inquiry into Islamophobia morphed into an on “All Forms of Racism Including Islamophobia” as reported by the BBC on 12 May 2020 "Conservative Party publishes terms for discrimination review." (The chair of the inquiry, Professor Swaran Singh, had been announced on 17 December 2019!

The terms of reference of the Independent Investigation are currently on the Conservative Party’s website.

Attitudes of Conservative Party members

The Hope not hate page also contains a link to some recent polling of Conservative Party members carried out by YouGov on behalf of Hope not hate. This shows the extent of anti-Muslim attitudes amongst Party members.

The findings should shock anyone reading them.

Why has the problem grown?

The membership of political parties is not static, and the Conservative Party is no exception.

As Party Leader, David Cameron made significant attempts to make the Conservative Party socially liberal, culminating in the enactment of equal civil marriage. That had the effect of driving many socially illiberal members out of the Conservative Party; many joined UKIP.

However, from date of the 23 June 2016 EU Referendum onwards, after David Cameron’s resignation, many of those individuals have re-joined the Conservative Party. Indeed, attracting socially conservative voters was an integral part of Theresa May’s strategy in the 2017 general election, albeit only partially successful, and much more so Boris Johnson’s strategy in the 2019 general election.

Polling by YouGov for Hope not hate published on 28 June 2019 revealed the extent of anti-Muslim attitudes within Conservative Party members. The 2020 polling mentioned above reconfirms the extent of the problem.

Comment from me in Hope not hate document

Page 24 of the Hope not hate submission of evidence consists of a comment written by me about the issue. You can read it below.

On 4 June 2018, the Conservative Muslim Forum sent Conservative Party Leader Theresa May an open letter, signed by me as Chairman, supporting calls by the Muslim Council of Britain, Baroness Warsi, and Lord Sheikh for the Party to hold an independent inquiry into Islamophobia (generally understood to mean anti-Muslim hatred and anti-Muslim prejudice) within the Party. It is still available on the CMF’s website.

I subsequently had many communications with then-Party Chairman Brandon Lewis, and others within the Party, including complainants, and the media. I also wrote two articles on Conservative Home: “The toxification of politics threatens us all” explaining the problem, and “How the Conservative Party should fix its Muslim problem” which contained recommended improvements to the complaints process.

This process left me feeling let down by the Party I joined many years ago.

My experiences from June 2018 to July 2019 (when I left the Conservative Party) led me to conclude that although the Party’s leadership was sincere in wanting an inclusive Party, its unwillingness to be transparent made it impossible to have any confidence that the disciplinary process was applied fairly. Too often, electoral considerations appeared to take priority.

Furthermore, the Party’s leadership was utterly unwilling to even begin to think about the most fundamental issue, namely to address the question “What is it about the Conservative Party that leads anti-Muslim bigots to believe that they have a natural home within it?”

I welcome this submission to the Party’s inquiry from HOPE not hate. It includes some shocking findings, but alas nothing that especially surprises me. The Conservative Party will not be trusted by British Muslims unless and until it heeds the calls to rid itself of Islamophobic members, and to create processes, and a culture, to ensure it is welcoming to Muslims, and to all ethnic minority groups.

 

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