Tory MP Paul Scully claims there are ‘no-go’ areas in Birmingham and London

<span>Paul Scully’s comments were rejected by the Tory West Midlands mayor and by Labour’s Jess Phillips, whose constituency is partly in the supposedly no-go area.</span><span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images</span>
Paul Scully’s comments were rejected by the Tory West Midlands mayor and by Labour’s Jess Phillips, whose constituency is partly in the supposedly no-go area.Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Conservatives have become embroiled in a second controversy over Islamophobia in quick succession after a former government minister claimed there were “no-go areas” in Birmingham and east London.

Paul Scully, the MP for Sutton and Cheam in Surrey, made the remarks on Monday during a discussion about allegations of anti-Muslim sentiments within the party, after Lee Anderson was stripped of the Tory whip at the weekend for claiming that “Islamists” had “got control” of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

In an interview with BBC London, Scully made reference to parts of London and Birmingham with large Muslim populations. He later apologised for the remarks.

The former London minister said: “The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying. That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

In response, Andy Street, the Tory West Midlands mayor, urged “those in Westminster to stop the nonsense slurs”.

He wrote on X: “The idea that Birmingham has a ‘no-go’ zone is news to me, and I suspect the good people of Sparkhill … I for one am proud to lead the most diverse place in Britain.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips, whose Birmingham constituency includes part of the Sparkhill area, said: “As one of the MPs for Sparkhill, I am expecting an apology for this utter drivel.

“My kids hang out in Sparkhill day and night, never had a moment’s worry, I go there weekly and live literally a five-minute walk from there and used to live there myself.”

Ali Milani, chairman of the Labour Muslim Network, told BBC London that Scully was perpetuating an “Islamophobic myth”.

Scully subsequently attempted to clarify his comments in a TV interview with the BBC.

He said: “What I was referring to was that a few years ago, you had the Muslim patrols, and I think some of those protagonists themselves realise the error of their ways, and I’ve seen other areas where there’s just been pressure upon people worrying about going about in their own area.

“I can’t talk about now, I’m just talking about what I’ve seen and heard and the perception of people. It’s right that we have a conversation about why a very small minority – whether it’s Muslims, whether it’s gangs … or disaffected people in other areas – are creating fear.

“That’s not the same as saying all Muslims are pushing people out, because that’s patently ridiculous and a conspiracy theory that I have no truck with.”

Scully, who failed to make the shortlist to be the Conservative candidate for the London mayorship in 2023, added: “If I’ve spoken mistakenly or created division, then I apologise, but there are a handful of people who will always seek offence and there are people who come in behind that.”

Rishi Sunak, who is already under pressure over his handling of the comments by Anderson in a TV interview, said: “I’ve been very clear that what he said was wrong, it was unacceptable, and that’s why we suspended the whip.

“It’s important that everybody, but particularly elected politicians, are careful with their words and do not inflame tensions.”

Anderson, a former Tory party deputy chair, said his words were clumsy, but refused to apologise on Monday.