The Tories have been urged to suspend a senior former minister who is standing as a parliamentary candidate in the general election after being accused of telling a Sikh rival he was “talking through his turban”.
Philip Dunne is said to have aimed the “racist” and “disgusting” barb at the Labour candidate in Ludlow, Kuldip Sahota, during a debate on Wednesday evening.
Labour is now calling for Dunne, who served as a minister in David Cameron and Theresa May’s governments and managed Jeremy Hunt’s Tory leadership campaign last summer, to be suspended from the party and stripped of his privy counsellor status.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the Labour candidate for Slough, said insulting the turban, which is worn by Sikh men as an article of faith, was to attack the entire community as well as soldiers who have fought and died for Britain wearing it.
Dhesi, became parliament’s first ever turban-wearing Sikh MP in 2017 and has challenged Boris Johnson on the racism he has faced for wearing a turban.
He said: “This disgusting, racist remark wasn’t just made by a Conservative parliamentary candidate, it was made by someone who was a Conservative MP for 14 years, who has served as a minister in several Conservative governments, and this year was even given an honour by the Conservative leadership.
“He is not a random candidate in an unwinnable seat. He is a senior Conservative figure who could be re-elected.
“This attack on the turban, which we consider a crown, is an attack on the entire Sikh community, who fought and died for Britain wearing those same turbans.
“The Conservatives must suspend him immediately and strip him of his honour. Anything less than that will be condoning blatant racism.”
Sahota, Labour’s candidate for Ludlow in Shropshire, said: “I was shocked and deeply hurt that someone who was an MP for 14 years would make such a derogatory comment about the Sikh faith. This is extremely insulting to the Sikh community.
“These are the kind of offensive comments I remember receiving in the 1970s. They have no place in modern Britain and they certainly have no place in our Parliament.
“I hope the Conservatives will investigate this matter immediately.”
Dunne refused to comment when contacted by HuffPost UK, which was asked to send an email. The Conservative Party has also been contacted for comment.