26 May 2021
I have previously written about this investigation in my 27 October 2020 article “Conservative Party racism inquiry - Hope not hate submission of evidence.” That page gives the background to the investigation.
Two days after that, on 29 October 2020 I was interviewed by online video call for over an hour by Professor Singh with his colleagues sitting in and taking notes. He had approached me to ask if I wanted to give evidence.
In February 2021 Professor Singh sought, and received, my written consent to my evidence being used, and obtained my approval to being named and quoted in the report.
The report was published yesterday (25 May 2021). I only learned that when I started receiving calls from the media about it!
The full title of the report is a bit of a mouthful!:
“THE SINGH INVESTIGATION
Independent Investigation into Alleged Discrimination
Citing Protected Characteristics within the Conservative and Unionist Party in England, Wales and Northern Ireland”
I recommend downloading and reading the full report. It is a very readable 52 pages.
This is set out on page 3 and I have reproduced it below.
"This investigation was set up following certain high-profile allegations of discrimination, including what is sometimes referred to as “Islamophobia”, within the Conservative and Unionist Party (the “Party”).
The Party had also been accused of failure to address allegations of Islamophobia. Following discussions with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the “EHRC”), the Party set up this Independent Investigation (the “Investigation”) to consider such allegations and appointed a Chair in December 2019.
On 12 May 2020 the Investigation published the Terms of Reference, on which the EHRC had provided detailed comments. This is the Report of that Investigation."
For convenience I have reproduced the two quotes from me along with some contextualising text from Professor Singh’s report.
"However, Mohammed Amin, former Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum, thought the Party was more likely to harbour racists since the Labour Party had a more diverse membership.
“If you look at the membership of the Labour Party, the Labour Party has far more ethnic minority members proportionately than the Conservative Party does… I’m sure there are plenty of racist Labour Party members, but proportionately I expect to see far fewer than in the Conservative Party.”
"Interviewees raised the political problem of the Party wanting to be seen as strong on domestic and international security without seeming to be anti-Muslim.
Mohammed Amin noted that former Prime Minister David Cameron, when talking about Muslims in the years following his 2011 speech at the Munich Security Conference, “struggled to talk about Muslims without mentioning security.”
Amin mentioned that even a short Eid message from Cameron to Britain’s Muslims had mentioned security. He said that while the Party had tried to distinguish between Islam and Islamists, the way the message was communicated meant that it was not received clearly by British Muslims.
“Cameron always tried to do that (to make a distinction between ordinary Muslims with Islamists) but he was never very good at sounding sympathetic to Islam and ordinary Muslims”
When I made the above comment to Professor Singh during my interview on 29 October, I was of course speaking from memory. However as examples, see the following Eid messages from Prime Minister David Cameron:
I was disappointed to read on page 4 that some people having given evidence were not willing to be named. However, I do have some sympathy with them.
I have no aspirations within the Conservative Party and can therefore speak freely relying on the liberty we take for granted as British citizens.
Those who want to pursue selection as Conservative Party candidates will be very reluctant to be seen criticising either the Party or individual Conservative Party members.
Many people have criticised the report. I do not share those criticisms.
The fundamental point readers need to understand is that the terms of reference were very narrowly drawn. The key provisions are reproduced below:
“The independent investigation will consider and report upon:
- The nature and extent of complaints against the Party, Party Members, Party Representatives and/or Volunteer Leaders (whether made formally or otherwise) of alleged discrimination because of a protected characteristic (including religion or belief and specifically Islam) or of indirect discrimination, since 2015. The independent investigation will also consider and report on any complaints of harassment (as defined in paragraph 4 below) and/or victimisation during the same period; and
- How the Party has investigated and dealt with such complaints, including any sanctions applied by the Party in circumstances where complaints have been investigated and upheld.”
Nothing else was within scope. In particular, the Conservative Party had no willingness to ask itself the question I have posed several times to then Party Chairman Brandon Lewis MP: “What is it about the Conservative Party that makes anti-Muslim bigots think that they belong in the Party?”
In the many media interviews I gave, I emphasised that Professor Singh had done an excellent job.
If the Conservative Party accepts his recommended improvements to the complaints process, code of conduct etc (Party Co-Chairman Amanda Milling MP has accepted them) and implements them thoroughly, they should make a major difference within the Party, making the process more robust and more transparent.
In my view Professor Singh even managed to slightly stretch his terms of reference to convey broader messages.
I particularly recommend reading “Case Study A - Prime Minister Boris Johnson” on pages 51 & 52 about Mr Johnson's notorious August 2018 column in The Telegraph about Muslim women wearing niqab and burqa. Mr Johnson should find this very uncomfortable reading.
Similarly “Case Study C - Lord Goldsmith (Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park)” about Zac Goldsmith's 2016 London Mayoral campaign on pages 54 & 55.
Channel 4 News did a recorded interview over Zoom. Part of it was used in their 3-minute story "Tory Islamophobia inquiry finds anti-Muslim views and criticises Johnson’s burka comments."
The BBC News website mentioned my 2018 involvement in their story "PM's burka comments gave impression of insensitivity - report" about the issue of the report.
I was extensively quoted by Rajeev Syal in his Guardian story "Critics believe Tory Islamophobia report was doomed to fail." The most important quote was:
“The key issue which the terms of reference did not address is what is it about the Conservative party that leads so many anti-Muslim bigots to believe that the Conservative party is the place for them?”
I was interviewed by talkRADIO on the day of publication. They tweeted part of the video of the interview.
I also gave a number of other radio interviews. However as they are only available on the internet for a limited period, I have not included links.