An inquiry has criticised the Conservative Party for failing to properly investigate allegations of internal racism, because of a lack of “transparency”, training and staff.
Two-thirds of complaints related to anti-Muslim discrimination – but the party’s complaints process was not fit for purpose to deal with them, it has found.
Boris Johnson also comes under fire for his comments about women wearing the burqa, which gave the impression of being “insensitive to Muslim communities”, the professor who carried it out said.
The probe, set up by the prime minister, was completed in March, triggering allegations it was held back until after May’s local elections.
The Independent revealed that victims of alleged racism had complained of being ignored – while the inquiry was restricted to complaint-handling, rather than why many Muslims feel unwelcome in the party.
Now the inquiry, by Prof Swaran Singh, has found:
* The Conservatives recorded 1,418 complaints concerning 727 incidents of alleged discrimination, between 2015 and 2020.
* Two-thirds of the incidents related to allegations of anti-Muslim discrimination.
* The people interviewed by the investigation who experienced discrimination did so “at the level of a local party association”.
* Local anti-Muslim sentiment was “demonstrated by a number of social media complaints against party members which were upheld”.
* Many of those interviewed believed Islamist extremism should not be conflated with Islam.
Prof Singh said: “We were tasked with scrutinising how the Conservative Party dealt with allegations of such discrimination and whether its policies and processes to deal with complaints of discrimination were fit for purpose.
“Our report should make for uncomfortable reading for the party and, more importantly, spur it into action.
“I hope the party will fully accept our recommendations and implement the changes needed in a transparent and timely manner.”
But Sajjad Karim, a former Tory MEP, said: “The manner in which this inquiry has been conducted means it is nothing but an attempt to whitewash deep-rooted issues out of sight.
“It is difficult to identify any basis upon which this has been a serious attempt to address credible and serious matters or deliver on Boris Johnson’s leadership election pledge.”
On the handling of racism complaints, Prof Singh found:
* The party has “an under-resourced and inadequately trained complaints team and a weak data collection system”.
* It “falls short of best practice”, compared with that recommended by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
* There is “no evidence of attempts to pressure or interfere with the handling of individual complaints”, by party chiefs.
* “Minimal training” is given to party members on compliance with codes of conduct.
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “The party is considering the recommendations set out by the report. We will respond later today.”