Tories need to heed Sajid Javid’s call over Islamophobia — and the voters will punish them if they don’t

Ayesha Hazarika

Last night, a strange thing happened — it wasn’t the Boris Johnson or Rory Stewart show. Apart from when Stewart suddenly removed his tie and a number of the metropolitan elite almost passed out wondering where this was all going.

No, the small breakthrough moment in the Tory leadership debate came from Sajid Javid on an issue which matters and should matter to him, as he has skin in the game. Literally. Both major parties are not just split over Brexit, each is mired in ugly prejudice. Labour and anti-Semitism. The Conservatives and Islamophobia.

The latter is raw because Donald Trump retweeted Katie Hopkins’s vile comments about Sadiq Khan and Londonistan (what is it about our Muslim Mayor they find so troubling?). It then bled into the Tory leadership race because Jeremy Hunt said he agreed “150 per cent” with Trump on Khan’s record on knife crime and therefore Hopkins’s attack on Khan.

There are many reasons why this is wrong but also weird. Hunt is a well-bred, intelligent man, despite not understanding percentages. Imagine if Diane Abbott had said 150 per cent, by the way. But for most sentient beings seeking any kind of political career, endorsing Katie Hopkins in any way is a bad thing to do. Or it should be.

I’m still pretty tribal but I was disappointed that Hunt and Downing Street didn’t condemn Trump’s tweet. Yes, Khan is their opponent but we should stand up for people who are getting attacked on racial or religious grounds, regardless of what team they’re on.

And on a purely cynical level it would have elevated Hunt. But he was probably aping the frontrunner when it comes to us pesky Muslims. There has been much criticism of Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women from many commentators, myself included.

As predicted, the issue did come up but it provided the most interesting moment of the debate and not only because of the row today over the man who asked the question. Johnson waffled on about his great-grandfather, which didn’t really work as it wasn’t an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? But it did give Sajid Javid the opportunity to raise the issue of Islamophobia in the party, an opportunity he took by getting the candidates to agree on camera to an external investigation — something that many, including Baroness Warsi, have been calling for.

"Tory BAME activists fear their party is mishandling this issue as badly as Labour did anti-Semitism"

It was important to see Javid talk not just about his own back story but say something substantial about an issue that is genuinely troubling people. Tory BAME activists and other senior figures tell me they fear the Tories are mishandling this issue as badly as Labour did anti-Semitism, and that the clock is going backwards to appease populist sentiment, which is dangerous.

They have written to all the candidates asking them to make commitments on diversity and race. All those still in the race have agreed, apart from Johnson, although he provided a supportive quote. This crucial initiative is called Diversity2Win. Which is apt because the Tories have a whole country out there to try and win come the next election — and it looks very different to the membership.

Thanks to Les, I’ve found the joy of tech

I’ve never been blessed with an aptitude for technology. I must have been the last person to get an iPhone — even my old boss Ed Miliband used to laugh at my trusty, rusty Motorola clamshell, which I loved snapping shut at the end of a testing call.

I have a Yahoo! account with 2001 in it and no, it wasn’t the year I was born. It’s so rubbish, it plays up because apparently I send “too many emails …” Even my email is judging me.

I decided that it was time to get myself a tech upgrade. I only thought I would need an hour or so but the poor IT man, Les, soon found himself in a hostage situation. My ignorance was staggering.

But in my defence, why doesn’t anything come with a proper instruction manual these days? It turns out that I wasn’t even using my mouse properly. At one point, Les asked me why so many windows were open … “because I think you’ll find it’s quite warm,” I replied. But it was time well spent and I highly recommend it. I felt like a new woman having a new email system, a tidy desktop and discovering all these new snazzy shortcuts.

Poor Les was a broken man by nightfall — it was like Driving Miss Daisy — but he was so patient, kind and helpful, I may put him down as my new emergency contact. Finally, I’m an IT girl.

*Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy is known for her inspiring campaigning, from taking on loan sharks to fighting for child refugees, but now the personal has become political. She’s announced she is pregnant but revealed, sadly, it isn’t the first time and she had suffered miscarriages.

Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy (Matt Writtle)

Now she’s fighting for MPs to get proper maternity leave and cover so new mothers don’t feel harassed and guilty and constituents get proper representation.

If a pregnant GP can get locum cover, why can’t a politician? When it comes to parenting, it’s time Westminster grew up.