Former Tory candidate quit party due to ‘uncomfortable lurch to the right which caused Islamophobia scandal’

Exclusive: Kishan Devani says ‘Islamophobia is one of many issues in the party’ but ‘there is a wider issue’ about ideology 

Sunday 10 June 2018 14:46 BST
"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror": Lib Dem Treasurer Kishan Devani who defected from the Tories explains why he left the party

A former Conservative parliamentary candidate who quit the party over its treatment of black and minority ethnic communities has said that, as the son of two refugees, he was “unable to look at himself in the mirror”.

Kishan Devani, who was the deputy chair of the party in London, has now joined the Liberal Democrats after the Tory’s “lurch to the right” and failure to deal with Islamophobia.

Mr Devani said the party’s attitude made him “very uncomfortable” and it was an attempt to become “Ukip-lite”.

“Islamophobia is one of many issues in the party. I think there is a wider issue of the party lurching to the right since the Brexit vote – which has also clearly had a significant impact in the general outlook of the party,” he told The Independent.

“This is just one part of the bigger picture. Today it starts with the Muslim community but where does it end?

“We need to look deeper into society. We shouldn’t tolerate this at all. Whatever political allegiance or political background we should not tolerate this type of behaviour from anyone.”

“I didn’t feel comfortable to back them, to support them, to canvass for them, vote for them and work for them and if I’m feeling like that, my guess is there are others who feel that way too,” he said.

Mr Devani, who quit the party at the end of last year, has since been appointed the Liberal Democrats’ treasury envoy and also sits on the party’s race equality group – the type of committee he says is not as active in the Tory party.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of allegations of racism and Islamophobia being prevalent in the Tory party.

Former members contacted The Independent about their personal experiences of discrimination.

In one example, a current activist in London said that a dinner hosted by his local Conservative association, five BME attendees were placed on one table at the far end of the room.

Another former Tory activist said he was asked to attend a selection interview and upon hearing that he had volunteered at a Muslim-led community organisation, one of the interviewers asked “if there was something he was not telling them”.

Mr Devani’s comments come as the Muslim Council of Britain and eleven other councils across the UK called on the Tories to conduct an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia.

There have also been a number of incidents of Islamophobic and racist content posted on social media by councillors and party members, with 12 reports in the last two months.

In response to calls for an inquiry a Conservative Party spokesperson said: “We have introduced a new code of conduct covering all forms of discrimination and we take all allegations seriously.

“The party has acted quickly when presented with evidence of inappropriate behaviour, suspending those involved and launching immediate investigations.”

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