Chancellor Sajid Javid has refused to criticise the Prime Minister for his use of language to describe Muslim women.
Speaking on the campaign trail, Mr Javid struggled to explain Boris Johnson’s use of words like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” to describe Muslim women wearing a veil, which he wrote in a column for The Telegraph newspaper last year.
It follows criticism of the Conservatives by the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the party of “denial, dismissal and deceit” with regards to Islamophobia on the day that the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism made him unfit to be prime minister.
In an exchange with reporters, Mr Javid said the Prime Minister had “explained why he’s used that language” adding the article “was to defend the rights of women, whether Muslim women and others to wear what they like, so he’s explained that and I think he’s given a perfectly valid explanation”.
He added: “Whenever this issue has come about (for) the Conservative Party, no-one has ever credibly suggested that it’s an issue with the leadership of the party, whether that’s the leader of the party of the day or the chancellor or other senior figures, no-one’s suggested that.”
Later, Boris Johnson dismissed criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain of the Conservative Party’s handling of Islamophobia within its ranks.
On a visit to the International Aviation Academy in Norwich on Tuesday, the Prime Minister told reporters that he did not agree with the claim that his party had approached Islamophobia with “denial, dismissal and deceit”.
He added: “What we do in the Tory Party is when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group then they’re out first bounce,” he said.
Mr Johnson said his party would hold an inquiry into “all forms of prejudice” starting before the end of the year, despite having previously pledged to hold one specifically on Islamophobia
He added: “If anybody is convicted or anybody is done for Islamophobia or indeed any other prejudice or discrimination in the Conservative Party they’re out first bounce.
“What you’re seeing in the Labour Party is a chronic failure of leadership, a refusal to tackle the issue and a refusal of Mr Corbyn to stand up and be counted.”
Writing in Tuesday’s edition of The Times, Rabbi Mirvis said Labour’s handling of the issue, which has dogged the party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, was “incompatible” with British values.
Responding, the Labour leader insisted anti-Jewish racism was “vile and wrong” and that the party had a “rapid and effective system” for dealing with complaints.
Mr Corbyn called on the Conservatives to “address the issues of Islamophobia that appear to be a problem within their party”.
In response to the Chief Rabbi’s comments, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “As a faith community, we commonly are threatened by Islamophobia. This an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party, who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit.
“It is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party tolerate Islamophobia, allow it to fester in society and fail to put in place the measures necessary to root out this type of racism. It is as if the Conservative Party has a blind spot for this type of racism.”