Leadership candidates commit to Tory Islamophobia inquiry during debate
The five remaining candidates in the Conservative leadership race have committed to an external investigation into Islamophobia in the Tory Party.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who is of Muslim heritage, urged his rivals to agree to a probe during a BBC debate on Tuesday night.
“It’s great that we all agree on that,” he said, as the other candidates nodded.
The agreement comes after the former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi called for an independent inquiry into “institutional” Islamophobia in the party earlier this year.
On Monday, Jeremy Hunt came under fire for his comments in relation to the US president Donald Trump retweeting Katie Hopkins’ claim that the capital was becoming “Londonistan”.
The Foreign Secretary said he backed the “sentiment” of the tweet “150%” – but quickly backtracked over the remark.
During Tuesday’s BBC debate, Mr Hunt said his earlier comments about the tweet had been misconstrued and he “totally disagreed with the racist rants of Katie Hopkins”, although he did believe Sadiq Khan had been a “useless mayor” and “useless at tackling knife crime”.
And he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we should have an independent inquiry because the cancer of racism and prejudice is not restricted to any one political party.
“We have been very vociferous calling out Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism and if we are going to do that, and I think we are right to do that, then we have to be whiter than white ourselves.”
Mr Javid told the debate there was a “growing anti-Muslim hatred in our country, certainly over the last few years, in all parts of society, wherever that is – including in political parties – it must be absolutely rooted out”.
He went on to say “words do have consequences”, and he would be a “critical friend” to the US president, who would “call out” any racist comments.
International Development Secretary Rory Stewart took a more diplomatic approach, saying although he would be “very firm, very strong” with the president, “generally if you are the prime minister, you have to do it with dignity and in private”.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove condemned Islamophobia as “repugnant” and attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for comments he claimed were “disgusting” and anti-Semitic.
Front-runner Boris Johnson said he was “sorry for the offence” his comments about veiled Muslim women looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” had caused, and mentioned his great-grandfather was a Muslim.
After the debate, a spokesman for Mr Javid’s campaign added he was “deeply concerned about rising division” in society.
He said: “We are a great country, the world’s most successful multi-racial democracy, and there are people from all backgrounds and races in the most senior roles right across society.
“But there is a rise in hate crime across the country, and we cannot close our eyes to it.
“Though he does not have any reason to believe there is anything endemic in the Tory Party that breeds Islamophobia, no organisation is immune from this cancer.
“So he’s pleased to open up the party to scrutiny – we must have the courage that the Labour Party has so sorely lacked.”