Hucknall MP denies anti-Muslim claims by former minister as PM orders an enquiry

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Hucknall MP Mark Spencer (Con) has strongly denied claims made by a former minister that he said her ‘Muslimness’ was a reason for her sacking back in 2020.

Nusrat Ghani (Con), MP for Whealdon, was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying she was told her ‘status as a Muslim woman’ was ‘making colleagues uncomfortable’ after she lost her ministerial role in the Department for Transport in a mini-reshuffle of Prime Minister Boris Johnson' s government in February 2020.

She went on to say that she dropped the matter after being told that if she ‘persisted in asking about it she, would be ostracised and her career and reputation would be destroyed’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Spencer, the Government’s chief whip, has since said Ms Ghani was referring to him and added her claims were ‘completely false and he considered them defamatory’.

Hucknall MP Mark Spencer, the Government chief whip, has denied the claims made against him by former minister Nusrat Ghani. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty ImagesHucknall MP Mark Spencer, the Government chief whip, has denied the claims made against him by former minister Nusrat Ghani. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images
Hucknall MP Mark Spencer, the Government chief whip, has denied the claims made against him by former minister Nusrat Ghani. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images

However, one of Mr Spencer’s cabinet colleagues, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said the allegation should be investigated.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now ordered a cabinet office inquiry into the allegations.

Responding to the claims in a series of tweets on Twitter, Mr Spencer said: “To ensure other whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory.

"I have never used those words attributed to me.”

"It is disappointing that when this issue was raised before Ms Ghani declined to refer the matter to the Conservative Party for a formal investigation.

"I provided evidence to the Singh Investigation into Islamophobia which concluded that there was no credible basis for the claims.

"These claims relate to a meeting in March 2020.

“When Ms Ghani raised them she was invited to use the formal CCHQ complaints procedure. She declined to do so.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Ghani said she welcomed the inquiry, adding that she ‘just wanted the matters to be taken seriously’.

Read More
Hucknall MP calls Boris Johnson a 'hero' as he again backs the PM

The accusations made by Ms Ghani come on the back of the continuing controversy surrounding Mr Spencer over claims by William Wragg (Con), the member for Hazel Grove in Manchester, who told Parliament that MPs wanting to oust Prime Minister Boris Johnson from office have faced ‘intimidation’ from whips that ‘amount to blackmail’.

Mr Wragg is now set to meet with the Metropolitan Police this week about the issue.

Rebel Tory MPs – known as the ‘pork pie plotters’ – are considering publishing a secretly recorded ‘heated’ exchange with Mr Spencer, the government chief whip, reports suggest.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Wragg said he had received reports of conduct from ‘members of staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers and others encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those who they suspect of lacking confidence in the Prime Minister’ in the wake of Downing Street lockdown parties revelations.

The Times reported that one Tory MP recorded a conversation they had with Mr Spencer after voting against the Government last year.

The MP told the paper: “They pulled me over and I told them I was voting against them.

"They got right up in my face.

"They told me that if you think you’re getting a single f***ing penny, forget it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“If you think a minister is coming to your patch, forget it, you’re done.”

The MP is also understood to have text messages, as well as the recording, to support the accusations.

In his statement, Mr Wragg said: “In recent days, a number of members of Parliament have faced pressures and intimidation from members of the Government because of their declared, or assumed, desire for a vote of confidence in the party leadership of the Prime Minister.

"It is of course, the duty of the Government whips office to secure the Government’s business in the House of Commons.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"However, it is not their function to breach the ministerial code in threatening to withdraw investments from members of Parliaments’ constituencies, which are funded from the public purse.

"Additionally, reports to me and others, of members of staff at No 10 Downing Street, special advisors, Government ministers and others, encouraging the publication of stories in the press, seeking to embarrass those whom they suspect of lacking confidence in the Prime Minister, is similarly unacceptable.

“The intimidation of a member of Parliament is a serious matter.

"Moreover, the reports of which I am aware, would seem to constitute blackmail.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Wragg is just one of a handful of Tory backbenchers to have publicly said they have submitted a letter to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

The Prime Minister said he had seen no evidence to support Mr Wragg's allegations.

A spokesman said last week they were not investigating the allegations but would ‘look carefully at any evidence presented to them’.

The Dispatch has approached Mr Spencer for comment.