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Britain needs a full inquiry into the poison of Islamophobia inside the Conservative Party

Something has gone hideously wrong with the modern Conservative Party and Theresa May is incapable of dealing with it
The annual Conservative Party conference held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham (AFP)

On Tuesday, the Tory party suspended 14 party members for allegedly making anti-Muslim comments on social media. This should come as no surprise. 

It’s further shocking evidence that the Tory party has a very deep problem with Islamophobia. The party has been in denial about the problem for years.

 But let's try a mental experiment.

A mental experiment

Let’s imagine that a Conservative leader had abused parliamentary privilege and falsely accused an innocent rabbi of supporting terrorism from the floor of the Commons. 

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Let's imagine that Tory MPs were in the habit of tweeting out virulent anti-Semitic propaganda - and with impunity. Let’s imagine that the leading Conservative strategist had reportedly advised not to focus attention on the votes of "fucking Jews". 

Let’s imagine that the Tory party fought the London mayor campaign on the basis of stirring up hostility to Jews. Let’s imagine that many Tory voters were virulently anti-semitic, and that one of the most famous Tory politicians - Boris Johnson - had publicly mocked certain Jews on the way that they dressed. 

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And then been cleared of wrongdoing after an internal party investigation. And that all but a small minority of Jewish voters had turned their back on the Tories.

And finally, let’s imagine that the Conservative party was in flat denial that anything was wrong. 

And that senior party figures insisted that anti-semitism was not an issue inside the Conservative Party, with some going to the lengths of insisting that it could not exist because Jews did indeed present a threat to mainstream British society.

Decent people would say that the Conservative Party was barbaric, sick and that there was a deep, dark problem not just in the Conservative Party but also in British politics as a whole.

Mercifully that is not the case as far as anti-semitism is  concerned. 

Hostility to Islam

But substitute the word Muslim for the word Jew, and it has become clear that something has indeed gone hideously wrong with the modern Conservative party.

Last week, a poll conducted by the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate found 49 percent of Tory voters felt that Islam was incompatible with the British way of life. 

 Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, has never apologised for his mayoral campaign, which I am proud to have exposed in Middle East Eye almost three years ago.

Muslim leaders have called for an investigation into Islamophobia to go beyond Boris Johnson (AFP)
Muslim leaders have called for an investigation into Islamophobia to go beyond Boris Johnson (AFP)

Bob Blackman, Tory MP for Harrow East, received no punishment after sharing anti-Muslim social media posts by the former leader of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson. Nadine Dorries is another Tory MP who has endorsed Robinson with no comebacks from the Tory Party.

And only today we learn that Peter Lamb, a Tory councillor who was suspended from the Tory Party after issuing a series of foul Islamophobic tweets, is standing as a council candidate for the Conservatives in the local elections in May.

Substitute the word Muslim for the word Jew, and it has become clear that something has indeed gone hideously wrong with the modern Conservative party

To his credit Lamb now says he deeply regrets his words and has resigned from the party. But the fact that the Tory Party allowed him back speaks eloquently of the depth of institutional Islamophobia.

Meanwhile just 11 percent of Muslims voted for the Tories at the last election.

The media's role

No wonder that Sayeeda Warsi, the party’s most high-ranking Muslim politician, demanded a full independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. 

On Tuesday, in an interview with the BBC, Warsi said Islamophobia has become "institutional" in the Conservative Party.

And how deeply depressing that she’s been ignored and shunned. Under pressure from critics, Tory MPs point to the presence of Sajid Javid, a Muslim, as home secretary.

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This excuse is lame. Anti-semites down the ages have notoriously protested that "some of my best friends are Jewish". The fact that Ed Milliband was leader of the Labour Party from 2010 to 2015 is certainly not evidence that there is not an anti-Semitism problem in Labour.

How does the Conservative Party continue to behave like this? I have to point a finger at my own trade and state that the British media has a role here. 

Our newspapers have been running a campaign against anti-semitism, and rightly so. Anti-semitism is noxious and should be confronted wherever it occurs. But with the exception of the Guardian, there has been very little in the mainstream media about Tory Islamophobia. 

Chillingly, some argue that it does not exist at all. Others even want more. Here’s Rod Liddle in the Conservative-supporting Spectator magazine: "My own view is that there is not nearly enough Islamophobia within the Tory party." He continued: "Phobia implies these misgivings are irrational, when they are anything but."

A full inquiry

Imagine the reaction if Liddle had written that "there is not nearly enough anti-semitism within the Tory Party". There would have been national outrage - after peddling that kind of filth, Liddle would never have worked again in mainstream media. And rightly so.

There’s a very ugly double standard at work here. It's a double standard that the Conservative Party refuses to address. 

Tory leader Theresa May is clearly incapable of dealing with this problem. That is why Britain now needs a full independent inquiry into the poison of Islamophobia inside the Conservative Party.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in both 2022 and 2017, and was also named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Drum Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He was also named as British Press Awards Columnist of the Year in 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His latest book is The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam, published in May by Simon & Schuster. His previous books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran and The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism.
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