Tory MP asked to step back from charity role after confusing Asian colleagues

A Conservative MP has been asked to step back from his role at a top charity after confusing two Asian Cabinet ministers.

The MailOnline reported that James Gray, the MP for North Wiltshire, had been speaking at an event for the St John Ambulance charity in Parliament in September, when he was meant to be introducing Nadhim Zahawi, who was then vaccines minister.

But he is reported to have confused him with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, and reports said he remarked: “They all look the same to me.”

Mr Gray denies making the remark but said he did confuse the two.

He told the MailOnline: “I said ‘I am sorry to confuse the two of you. You two look very alike’. I said ‘I am sorry if I got you two mixed up’.

“The notion that this is some sort of racist remark is ridiculous. They are two very good friends of mine.”

But a spokesman for St John Ambulance confirmed Mr Gray had been asked to step back from all activities associated with the charity, where he is a Commander in the Order of St John, the parent charity of St John Ambulance.

A spokesman said: “St John does not tolerate racism in any way, shape or form. We spoke with James Gray following the event about our values as an open, inclusive and progressive charity.”

Mr Gray was forced to apologise last month for a “foolish remark” suggesting a bomb should be planted in a Labour frontbencher’s office.

At the time Mr Gray said he meant “no offence” with the comment about Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds, which that he posted in a WhatsApp group ahead of the opposition’s conference in Brighton.

The timing of the remark particularly raised concern among MPs because it was at the Conservative Party conference in the same city in 1984 that Margaret Thatcher was targeted by a bombing.