Baroness Warsi hits out at ‘institutional’ Islamophobia in the Tory party

Baroness Warsi Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

A senior Tory peer has called for an independent inquiry into "institutional" Islamophobia in the Conservative party.

Former minister Baroness Warsi has warned the party’s failure to address the issue within its ranks risked damaging the party's chances at the next election.

Lady Warsi, who was the first Muslim woman to have a seat at the Cabinet table, said there is a "deep-rooted problem" in the party and Theresa May has failed to act.

Her intervention came after Tory council candidate Peter Lamb quit after coming under fire for social media comments about Islam.

Fourteen Conservative members have been suspended from the party over allegedly Islamophobic comments on a Facebook group.

Buzzfeed firs reported the comments hosted on the self-styled "Jacob Rees-Mogg Supporters Group" page. It showed posts calling for the closure of all mosques and branding Muslim Home Secretary Sajid Javid a "Trojan horse."

A party spokesman said: "This Facebook group is in no way affiliated with the Conservative Party and many of the people identified on it are not party members.

"However we have identified some people who are party members and they have been immediately suspended, pending further investigation.

"When we find evidence of members making offensive or inappropriate comments, we consistently take decisive action. Discrimination or abuse of any kind is wrong and will not be tolerated."

Mr Lamb was due to stand in Harlow, Essex, in May’s local elections despite having been disciplined in 2017.

In 2015, he tweeted: "Islam like alcoholism [sic]. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem."

Later in the same year, he tweeted: "Turkey buys oil from ISIS. Muslims sticking together."

He said: "I deeply regret my remarks on social media. At no point did I intend to cause any offence to the Muslim community. I have reflected on my comments and decided that I should step down as a local election candidate and resign (from) the Conservative party with immediate effect."

A Conservative spokesman said: "Mr. Lamb was investigated and suspended by his local association back in 2017. He has subsequently resigned from the party.

"Discrimination or abuse of any kind is wrong and will not be tolerated.

"When CCHQ have been made aware of cases we have acted swiftly and decisively, suspending or expelling those involved and launching an immediate investigation under our party’s code of conduct."

Lady Warsi rejected the claim that the Tories were acting to address the problem.

She said: "We have a deep-rooted problem of anti-Muslim comments, Islamophobic comments, racist comments that have been made right from the top – from MPs through to councillors, council candidates, members, linked groups."

She said she had previously suggested an internal inquiry to deal with the issue, but added: "I think it has now gone beyond that and we need an independent inquiry."

She went on: “We cannot have a situation where a mainstream political party is sending out a message in the way it is acting that certain parts of our country, certain communities in our country, certain citizens in our country, are simply not welcome in our party and therefore are creating this environment in which, sadly, I think we will feel the impact at the next election.”

Lady Warsi urged Tory chief executive and treasurer Sir Mick Davis to act, claiming Mrs May and party chairman Brandon Lewis “have failed”.