Baroness Warsi has said she cannot “in all conscience” ask young Muslims to join Theresa May’s “Islamophobic” Tory Party.
The former chairwoman of the Conservatives said people of the Muslim faith no longer have “equal worth and equal value” in her party, as she revealed two Tory associations could face legal action over Islamophobia.
The peer’s interview with HuffPost UK comes as the party suspended 14 members on Tuesday, amid reports scores of members were part of an Islamophobic Facebook group.
Asked if she would encourage young Muslims to join the party today, she said: “No, I can’t, in all conscience.”
“I cannot hand on heart tell young Muslims that this party is a welcoming place for them, and that they will have equal worth and equal value here, or that the way that they are insulted will be taken as seriously as insults against people from other communities – no I can’t,” she added.
Warsi, a lawyer and former minister under David Cameron, also disclosed she had been approached by two members prepared to take legal action over alleged deselections of Muslim candidates.
She said: “There are two associations that have got quite big challenges with potentially legal cases coming to the fore.
“This is related to lots of abusive comments, deselection of candidates, comments that say the party shouldn’t elect Muslims as they will be loyal to other Muslims rather than to the party – all sorts of tropes and comments that were made which have actually led to deselections.”
Speaking on Wednesday following the suspension of 14 members of her party, senior Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said she rejected the claim the party has a problem with Islam. “I absolutely do not recognise it,” she told Business Insider.
“I have a significant Bangledeshi, Muslim population in my local constituency, and never have they said to me they don’t feel like the Conservative party is a party they can support because of people’s views on Islam or because they are Muslims.”
Hope Not Hate has said that the party is “in denial” about anti-Muslim feeling among members and voters, while hitting out at former foreign secretary Boris Johnson over his comparison of niqab-wearing woman with “bankrobbers” and “letterboxes”.
There have been several instances of Islamophobia in recent months, the anti-racism organisation says. In a recent report, it pointed to cases including that of MP Michael Fabricant, who posted a cartoon showing Sadiq Khan’s head on an inflatable balloon, engaged in a sex act with a pig. Khan is a Muslim, and eating pork is a sin in Islam.
Warsi said instances of Islamophobia were prompting donors to desert the party. “I have had three businessmen who gave money at the 2015 election who refused to give in 2017. It was specifically because they felt the party was anti-Muslim,” she said.
The party has always insisted it takes swift action when cases of Islamophobia are raised centrally, but Warsi is not convinced the current chair is serious.
“At best, it is political indifference which says we don’t care about Muslims and at worst it is a political strategy to attract Ukip-ers, EDL and angry Brexiteers,” she said.
“It is just constant,” said Warsi. “This isn’t just about offensive comments made by Boris. This is happening all of the time and it should keep Brandon Lewis awake at night.”
The party is becoming “institutionally racist”, Warsi claims.
She said: “For people like me, who were part of the detoxification of the party, it just feels like all our hard work has been flushed away.
“It took us a generation to get communities to trust us again, and here we are breaching that trust. It will take us another generation to win back that trust.”
Warsi said an independent inquiry, which the party has so far resisted, could lead to “mass expulsions”, but said it “has to be trusted” as many Muslim members fear it could be a whitewash.
“If we are going to do it, we need to do it in a clear and transparent way with a panel that has members of the community on it,” she said.
She added: “It would be a poisoned chalice – but I would be prepared to do it.”
Tory politicians failing to tackle Islamophobia do not have the “moral authority” to criticise Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism, she added.
Labour MPs have been embroiled in a long-running row with Jeremy Corbyn over Jew hatred among Labour members.
Warsi said: “We were right to condemn the Labour Party for its anti-Semitism, and I would do it all over again, but those politicians that don’t deal with Islamophobia in our own party lose the moral authority to criticise any other political party.”
Asked whether she had faced abuse and threats for speaking out about Islamophobia, she said she had, but stressed that she is not a victim.
“The real victims are the women beaten up after Boris’ comments. The real victims are the people some of these Islamophobic council candidates are purporting to represent.
“What if someone of the Muslim faith had to go in to ask about a constituency problem? The real victims are people living in Bob Blackman’s constituency, who have an MP who is openly Islamophobic and who has been tweeting Tommy Robinson. Do they even feel represented by someone like that?”
Warsi refused to be drawn on whether she has been approached to join the new Independent Group, which includes breakaway MPs from Labour and the Conservative Party.
I hope that when the leadership race is over, the real Sajid Javid steps forwardBaroness Warsi
But she said: “I am not prepared to leave. This is my party. I have given too much toil and sweat, trod too many pavements and knocked on too many doors – why should I leave? I am going to stay and fight.
“Do I leave my party because it becomes Islamophobic? What about if tomorrow my country becomes Islamophobic? Should I leave the country? I am not prepared to do that.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid, among the favourites to succeed May as leader, has previously criticised interventions by the Muslim Council of Britain, but has also been among the ministers speaking out against racism.
“Sajid Javid is gearing up for a leadership race and I have heard him say so many conflicting things about who he is, what he believes, what he thinks his identity is and who he associates with,” said Warsi.
“I hope that when the leadership race is over, the real Sajid Javid steps forward.”
When approached for comment, the Conservative Party said it did not recognise Warsi’s claims about potential legal action against two associations.
A party spokesman has said in relation to Islamophobia in the party: “When cases have been reported centrally the Conservative Party has consistently acted decisively, suspending or expelling those involved and launching an immediate investigation. In addition, the swift action we take on not just anti-Muslim discrimination, but discrimination of any kind is testament to the seriousness with which we take such issues.”