Baroness Warsi: Ex-Tory chairwoman criticises party for only now committing to Islamophobia inquiry as Hunt says they must be 'whiter than white' on issue

'It has been a long and lonely and bruising battle and I'm just relieved we finally seem to be turning a corner'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 19 June 2019 12:02 BST
Baroness Warsi on the Tory islamophobia inquiry: 'It has been a long and lonely and bruising battle and I'm just relieved we finally seem to be turning a corner'

Ex-Tory chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi has welcomed Conservative leadership contenders pledging an inquiry into Islamophobia in the party's ranks, but said it was shame they had to be dragged "kicking and screaming".

Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman with a seat at cabinet, has rallied against "institutional" Islamophobia in the party and demanded an external probe earlier this year - a demand echoed repeatedly by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Her remarks came as the candidates to be Britain's next prime minister appeared to commit to an external investigation during a BBC debate on Tuesday evening.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary vying to replace Theresa May in Downing Street, urged his rivals to agree to a probe into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

Mr Javid told the debate there was a "growing anti-Muslim hatred in our country, certainly over the last few years, in all parts of society, wherever that is - including in political parties - it must be absolutely rooted out".

Reaffirming his own commitment to an independent inquiry on Wednesday, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said the "cancer of racism and prejudice is not restricted to any one political party".

He continued: "We have been very vociferous calling out Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism and if we are going to do that, and I think we are right to do that, then we have to whiter than white ourselves."

Posting on her social media account after the debate, Baroness Warsi congratulated the home secretary for raising the issue, but added: "It's a shame hat it's taken four years and a leadership contest to finally drag my colleagues kicking and screaming to address this issue"

Speaking about the BBC leadership debate, she told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "There was a series of nodding and grunting and awkward shifting of the feet, but however it came about all credit to Sajid last night for firstly coming onboard with this issue, and secondly ensuring that all the other leadership candidates came onboard with this issue."

Baroness Warsi continued: "I've been fighting this now for four years - 2015 was when I first started raising these issues, initially internally and then eventually asking for an independent inquiry a couple of years ago because I felt no progress was being made internally.

"It has been a long and lonely and bruising battle and I'm just relieved we finally seem to be turning a corner and if it's taken a leadership battle for that to happen then I'm grateful for that.

"What we've seen for example with the Labour Party - the independent inquiry and the publishing of that report is then only the start of trying to root out the problem from within our own ranks."

She also urged whoever is elected Conservative leader next month must stick to their promise to hold an external inquiry. "It was made on national TV, so I hope they will," she said.

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