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My expulsion by the Conservative Muslim Forum

The CMF Executive Committee has expelled me after severe pressure from the Conservative Party Chairman to remove me from office. The page gives full details.

Summary

Posted 26 June 2019. Updated 27 July 2019.

On 20 June 2019, the Conservative Muslim Forum's Executive Committee held an emergency meeting which passed a motion to expel me as a member of the CMF.

There is a brief report on the ITV News website. I have written this page to provide fuller background.

My tweets about voting Liberal Democrat in the European Parliament election

I have written about the importance of Britain's membership of the European Union on many occasions.

However I have never given a media interview on the subject, as before the 2016 EU Referendum the CMF decided to take no position on the matter. Since the media approach me as Chairman of the CMF, I have never considered it appropriate to be interviewed about Brexit.

For the same reasons, while I have tweeted about Brexit on innumerable occasions, the CMF Twitter account which I controlled until a few days ago has never mentioned Brexit.

The tweets concerned are reproduced below.

10 May 2019 praising Liberal Democrats “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan

I think "Bollocks to Brexit" is an excellent slogan. Leavers' complaints are pure hypocrisy.

"The Lib Dems are unequivocal remainers who want to stop Brexit from happening. They think it’s all bollocks and are prepared to say so." https://t.co/r7UOA6oJlQ

— Mohammed Amin (@Mohammed_Amin) May 10, 2019

12 May 2019 I have cast my postal vote for a political party that unambiguously says that remaining in the EU is best for Britain.”

I don’t often agree with Tony Blair, but here I do.

Brexit is the most important issue facing the country.

Unlike Mr Blair, I have cast my postal vote for a political party that unambiguously says that remaining in the EU is best for Britain. https://t.co/uhPQDLvCbW

— Mohammed Amin (@Mohammed_Amin) May 12, 2019

19 May 2019 after Lord Heseltine went public about his voting intentions.

I already have, using my postal vote. The clearest Remain party.

“Bollocks to Brexit” https://t.co/xEhqm5Ku8d

— Mohammed Amin (@Mohammed_Amin) May 19, 2019

My tweets are fully public, and many CMF Executive colleagues read them. I also told several of them how I had voted, as it was no secret, and none of them expressed any concern that this was incompatible with being CMF Chairman.

Furthermore I chat regularly with some staff members at CCHQ, who were fully aware that I had voted Lib Dem and tweeted about it. While not necessarily enthusiastic about this, there was no suggestion by them that this was a serious disciplinary offence.

I was of course aware that Lord Heseltine had had the Tory whip in the House of Lords taken from him, but not expelled from the Conservative Party.

However I received no complaint from the Conservative Party's Leadership; unsurprising since polling indicates that only about 19% of Conservative Party members voted Conservative in the EU Parliament Elections.

My BBC Radio 4 "Today" interview

On 14 June 2019, I appeared on the "Today" programme for four minutes, interviewed by Martha Kearney about why I had said that I would resign from the Conservative Party if it chose Boris Johnson MP as its Leader following Theresa May's resignation.

The interview got a great deal of media publicity. As as well as the BBC tweet with a short clip below, it was mentioned in most of the newspapers and newspaper websites.

"We don't expect our politicians, our prime ministers to be saints, but we do require a basic level of morality and integrity."

Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum @Mohammed_Amin criticises Boris Johnson for his previous remarks about Muslim women #r4today pic.twitter.com/QymezCbqle

— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) June 14, 2019

You can hear the full interview below.

The recording is copyright the BBC. At the time of writing, the entire programme is available on BBC Sounds but only for a limited period. I have re-recorded my interview using my iPhone, and consider this to be fair use for the purpose of reporting current news events.

It is not worthwhile my transcribing the full interview, but I have transcribed the key segment below.

Key segment

I had just made the point about Muslim women being abused on the streets and that it must have been clear to Boris Johnson that this would happen as a result of his article, but he chose to write it for his own purposes.

MARTHA KEARNEY: “He may well dispute that. But it looks like he is now going to be the leader of the Conservative Party. At least he is very much in the front running for this job. Where does that leave you?”

MOHAMMED AMIN: “I have been a Conservative Party member for over 36 years. We don’t expect our politicians, our prime ministers to be saints. But we do require a basic level of morality and integrity. And of all of the candidates in the Conservative Party leadership election Boris Johnson is the only one that I believe fails that test. I am not prepared to be a member of a party that chooses him as its leader.”

MARTHA KEARNEY: “So you would resign after..”

MOHAMMED AMIN: “I would resign after 36 years.”

MARTHA KEARNEY: “But he is clearly in the front running amongst MPs, they think he will be the right person for the job and polling that has been done amongst grass roots Conservative members showed that he is pretty popular there as well.”  

MOHAMMED AMIN: “There are many horrible people who have been popular. Popularity is not the test. The test is: is this person sufficiently moral to be prime minister, and I believe he fails that test.”

MARTHA KEARNEY: “But MPs would disagree with you. They think he is certainly the right man to sort out Brexit for this country.”

At this point I wanted an example to show that popularity is no proof of anything. I chose the strongest example that came immediately to mind, partly prompted by her phrase “think he is certainly the right man to sort out” which reminded me of Germany and the depression in 1932.

MOHAMMED AMIN: “A lot of Germans thought that Hitler was the right man for them.”

I was in the studio and could see that Martha Kearney was shocked.

MARTHA KEARNEY: “That’s a very shocking comparison to make.”

MOHAMMED AMIN: “Yes. I am not saying Boris Johnson wants to send people to the gas chamber, clearly he doesn’t. He’s a buffoon. But he, as far as I’m concerned, has insufficient concern about the nature of truth for me to ever be a member of a party that he leads.”

MARTHA KEARNEY: “What he says is that phrases that he makes get wrenched out of context, interpreted by those who for reasons of their own to caricature his views.”

The interview moved on to me illustrating Mr Johnson's lack of concern for the truth with his denying while giving a press conference at JCB that he had ever said during the EU Referendum campaign that Turkey was joining the EU. The falseness of his denial was proven within hours by many video clips of him saying precisely that during the EU Referendum campaign.

I had no intention of implying that Mr Johnson is like Hitler, but rather that Hitler is a reminder that popularity by itself proves nothing. While many in the media have ignored the distinction, Ann Widdecombe agreed that I had not made the comparison. See her column "Children should be taught to think for themselves" in the Express.

I have reproduced the key section below.

Mohammed Amin, the chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, must be wishing the media in this country had been obliged to take such a course.

He has been accused of comparing Boris Johnson to Hitler. He did no such thing. Mr Amin was strongly criticising Boris Johnson on the Today programme when the interviewer pointed to Bojo's popularity, whereupon he cited Hitler as proof that popularity does not always guarantee the right result. What he was doing was challenging the notion of popularity as a measure of desirability, not saying that Boris Johnson was like Hitler.

I once said in a radio interview that women can take more care of their handbags on a night out than of their own persons. Immediately the silly interviewer asked how I dared to compare a handbag to a person. All I had compared, though, was the degree of care taken.

Discussions with Lord Sheikh

Lord Sheikh telephoned me on the evening of 14 June 2019 explaining that CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) had been in touch with him. We agreed to have dinner the following evening, which we did along with my wife and Lady Sheikh.

Lord Sheikh showed me a printout of a one-page letter sent to him by email on 14 June at 18:05 by Brandon Lewis, the Party Chairman. The letter reproduced as appendices printouts of the three tweets embedded above.

Brandon Lewis letter

I do not have a copy of the letter, but remember its structure quite clearly in three parts.

Part 1

It began by mentioning that a formal complaint had been made to CCHQ by someone regarding my interview because I had compared Boris Johnson to Hitler. For background information, the procedure is set out on the Conservative Party's website page "CODE OF CONDUCT FOR CONSERVATIVE PARTY REPRESENTATIVES."

As of today, I have received no communication from CCHQ regarding this complaint. If they do not dismiss the complaint themselves as ill founded, I will defend it, as the recording makes it clear I did not make that comparison.

Part 2

The letter gave the URLs of the three tweets, as well as enclosing printouts of the tweets as an appendix. Mr Lewis stated that the Party was not minded to expel me from membership for voting Liberal Democrat and publicising that I had done so, but wanted me removing as CMF Chairman.

As the Party had no direct power to remove me as CMF Chairman, Mr Lewis wanted Lord Sheikh and/or the CMF Executive to remove me.

Part 3

The letter concluded with a thinly veiled threat to disaffiliate the CMF as an affiliated organisation within the Conservative Party if I was not removed. Obviously the letter did not use such crude language, but the implication of the concluding paragraph was clear, and that is how Lord Sheikh and I both read the letter.

I understand from the discussion at the meeting below that this is also how all CMF Executive Committee members who attended the expulsion meeting read the letter.

Resignation request from Lord Sheikh

Lord Sheikh asked me to resign as CMF Chairman. I declined to do so because:

  1. I had not compared Mr Johnson to Hitler. If I could give the interview again, I would probably use a different example to illustrate the point that popularity is no evidence that someone is appropriate for the role they are seeking. As a variant of Godwin's Law, reactions to the interview have taught me that once you mention "Hitler" people stop understanding what you are actually saying, and instead assume you to be saying what they expect you to say. Conversely, the unfortunate mention of Hitler meant that the interview received far more media coverage than it would otherwise have done.
  2. I agreed that publicising that I had voted for the Liberal Democrats was probably a breach of a Conservative Party rule, and certainly does not make you popular with CCHQ. However, my conduct was no different from many others within the Party, given that 81% (i.e. 100 - 19) of Party members had not voted for the Party in the EU Parliament election.

My view was that the Party Chairman's threat of disaffiliating the CMF was a bluff, given the likely political implications. However I understand why Lord Sheikh and my CMF colleagues assessed the risk of disaffiliation differently.

Emergency Executive Committee meeting

I wrote to all members of the Executive Committee to ensure that they were fully in the picture, and the need to resolve the matter last week while I was in London, since on 22 June I was due to travel to Manchester for a week. I reminded them of the processes in the CMF Constitution.

Accordingly the CMF Secretary Faruk Miah duly called a meeting for the evening of 20 June, with CMF Executive Committee members being asked to waive the notice requirement. I duly waived it.

Under the CMF Constitution, the Executive Committee had no power to simply remove me as Chairman. The only way they could achieve that was to find sufficient cause to expel me from being a CMF Member, which would automatically remove me from the Executive Committee and from being Chairman.

At the meeting, the following charges were put by the "prosecution".

  1. "Supporting the Liberal Democrats." — As explained above, this is proven. However it was a non-issue with my CMF colleagues who had known about it, and the Party had taken no interest until the day of the Radio 4 interview when suddenly CCHQ got very excited. In my view this is a case of latching on to a minor provable infringement, when the major allegation is not provable.
  2. "Drawing a comparison between Boris Johnson MP and Hitler." — As shown above, this charge is simply not accurate. During the meeting, I played the audio of the full interview for my colleagues, and also read out the above transcript of the key section.

During my defence submission, I made the following points:

Article  20(1) [of the CMF Constitution] requires either:

I have not seen allegations of persistent breaches.

I would like to hear why calling BJ a “buffoon” is a grave breach of the Constitution.

The claim that I compared him with Hitler is simply inaccurate. However even if I had, it would be rude, but I would like to know why it is a “grave breach.

The Conservative Party is not expelling people who said they voted for another Party. I would like to hear why the CMF considers that a “grave breach.”

I have always avoided giving interviews about subjects where the CMF does not have a policy. That is why in over three years:

Earlier this year, by mistake I gave one interview about a subject, Relationships Education, and then realised we did not have a CMF position on it and that I could not be confident that the Executive would be overwhelmingly in support of what I had said.

I brought that to the Executive myself, apologised, got the Executive to decide that we were not going to take a position, and have turned down all subsequent media interview requests about Relationships Education.

I was asked by the media for an interview about Boris Johnson because I had made it clear on my personal Twitter account that I will resign from the Party if he becomes its leader. None of the interviews have given the slightest implication that the CMF supports any particular candidate, or opposes any candidate.

After I had put my defence case, I answered questions, and then withdrew to allow others to discuss the matter without me. My wife Tahara Amin is an elected member of the Executive Committee in her own right, but she also withdrew to avoid inhibiting the other members' discussions.

Prior to the vote, we were asked to return to the meeting.

The vote was by secret ballot. My wife and I chose to abstain since I did not want a narrow vote (the requirement is a vote of 75% of all Executive Committee members present and entitled to vote) to be swayed by my own vote. However due to the way the 75% threshold is written, abstaining and voting against have equal impact.

The final vote was 11 to expel and two abstentions.

I have made it clear both at the meeting and in my subsequent writings that I can sympathise with the quandary that my CMF colleagues found themselves in, with the Party Chairman threatening to disaffiliate the CMF if they did not get rid of me. I bear them no ill will.

How serious is publicising one's voting for another political party?

I have always been aware that the Party does not like people saying they have voted for another Party. However I have never seen a precise citation of exactly where this is prohibited.

As part of preparing my defence arguments, I spent some time looking at the Conservative Party Constitution.

Joining another political party

This is clearly prohibited by Article 3:

3 The Party is a political Party for the Nation, open to all who share its objects and values and who undertake to be bound by this Constitution. The Party shall consist of its Members. Membership of the Conservative Party is not compatible with Membership of or association with any other registered political party.

Standing against an official Conservative Party Candidate

This is of course also prohibited, by Schedule 6 paragraph 13:

13 Standing in an election against an official Party Candidate shall be considered to be a ground for expulsion of a Party Member from the Constituency Association of which he is a member and from the Party.

However I could not find anything prohibiting what I had done. If any reader can point me towards the precise rule, either in the Conservative Party Constitution or in another official Party document, I would appreciate that, and will then amend this website page.

As explained above, in my view after several weeks of ignoring it, the Party Chairman chose to get excited about my publicising how I had voted because of his concerns about my views regarding Mr Johnson being morally unfit to lead the Conservative Party.

Post expulsion messages

Since I was expelled, I have received a large number of messages, from both Muslims and non-Muslims. From memory, every Muslim contacting me has supported the position I took, as have the overwhelming majority of non-Muslims contacting me.

I have no regrets about criticising the moral fitness for office of Mr Johnson. As explained above, I did not compare him with Hitler.

 

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