In recent months it has become painfully obvious that a poison resides at the heart of the Conservative party: Islamophobia.
Its latest expression came in the aftermath of last Thursday’s local elections when the party re-admitted Rosemary Carroll just hours after she was re-elected to Pendle Council.
Carroll was originally suspended for three months last year after sharing a racist ‘joke’ on Facebook. It read: “I took my dog to the dole office to see what he was entitled to. The bloke behind the counter said, ‘you idiot, we don’t give benefits to dogs’. I argued, ‘Why not? He’s brown, he stinks, he’s never worked a day in his life, and he can’t speak a word of fucking English.’ The man replied, ‘His first payment will be Monday.’ ”
After that suspension expired, Carroll sat as an independent. However, as the political necessity of having her vote became clear on Friday, she was welcomed back with open arms. Last week, Paul White, the Tory leader of Pendle council, confirmed she had rejoined the party “in the last few days”.
Such a decision would almost certainly have been made at the highest levels of the Conservative party. The conclusion, it appears, was that an open racist in the ranks of local government was worth it for a working majority. What’s more, they likely foresaw little kickback from the media.
And after all, why should they? When Sayeeda Warsi – the first Muslim woman to become a Conservative minister – openly said on Peston on Sunday that there are now “weekly occurrences of Islamophobic incidents” within the party, her explosive comments were ignored. Imagine if a former Labour minister said something similar? That statement alone would have set the news agenda for weeks.
That the Tory party is being publicly condemned as racist towards Muslims is nothing new. In 2016, responding to David Cameron’s apology after he wrongfully accused Suleiman Ghani of supporting Isis, the Muslim Council of Britain called for an “urgent review of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.” They repeated that call when speaking to Vice just a few weeks ago. Again, what should be a leading story of national importance, remains broadly ignored by our rigged media.
If anything, it’s actually getting worse. On Wednesday the Sunday Telegraph agreed to pay “substantial damages” to Mohammad Kozbar, the chairman of Finsbury Park mosque, after it was judged to have falsely portrayed him as a supporter of terrorism. The impulse behind their maligning a decent man was the same as with Ghani a year earlier: a prominent Muslim had the temerity to support a Labour politician – only this time it was Jeremy Corbyn rather than Sadiq Khan. “It was not just myself who was the target of this article, it was Jeremy Corbyn,” Kozbar would tell the Guardian shortly after the verdict, “The aim was to damage the reputation of Jeremy and make his progress with the Labour party more difficult.” For the establishment, peddling Islamophobia easily dovetails with attacking successful left-wing politicians.
But the problem extends beyond activist loose cannons and a hostile press- it goes all the way to the top. In his 2016 tilt for London mayor, Zac Goldsmith led the most racist campaign in living memory. Writing for the Mail on Sunday before the vote, he claimed Sadiq Khan “repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views”, his article adorned by a photo from the 7/7 terrorist attacks. Elsewhere, targeted literature was sent to South Asian voters saying Khan wouldn’t stand up for Sikh, Tamil, Punjabi and Indian communities as well as the line that “His party SUPPORTS A WEALTH TAX on family jewellery”. Its hard to decide which is more racist – a bigoted attack on a Muslim politician, or the cliched idiocy that brown people keep pots of gold under the mattress.
The man behind Goldsmith’s run for City Hall was Lynton Crosby. Iain Dale, who has tried to launder his reputation in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal, had a simple response to the troubling start the Tories endured in last year’s general election: “let Lynton be Lynton”. In other words sow animosity and, if necessary, cultivate antipathy and distrust. When Paul Mason called Dale a racist on live television, he was right.
That Dale was so shocked to be told an obvious fact betokens how hatred of muslims is so common, among even the ‘respectable’ right, so as to be almost mundane. Peter Bingle, a former Tory councillor in Wandsworth recently tweeted, “Labour strategists don’t care about being accused of anti-semitism because it firms up the Muslim vote”. Elsewhere he added, “the relationship between the Labour party and the Muslim community needs to be investigated and discussed”. Bingle’s points – that British Muslims are a homogenous, universally anti-semitic voting block who need “investigating” – might read like a Britain First Facebook post, but it’s the opinion of supposedly mainstream Toryism.
The new far-right drinks deep from the well of Islamophobia. When Darren Osborne was arrested after murdering a man near Finsbury Park mosque he admitted his intention to kill both Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan the following day at a pro-Palestine march. As with Thomas Mair, this newly encouraged brand of racist terror is – without doubt – enabled by the Conservative party and their proxies in the media. In the case of Rosemary Carroll, Peter Bingle, Iain Dale and James Cleverly it is even forgiven and ignored. The Conservative party is racist to its core. Until its members can admit that it will only get worse.