The “poison” of Islamophobia has affected every level of the Conservative Party and is being ignored by the leadership in a bid to win elections, the former co-chair of the party has said.
Baroness Warsi, who served in David Cameron’s Cabinet, has told Business Insider that Islamophobia is “very widespread” in the Tory party.
And in a stinging attack, the peer accuses Environment Secretary Michael Gove of holding “extreme views” that shifted the Government’s approach to Muslims under Mr Cameron.
Islamophobia easily ignored
“It’s very widespread [in the Conservative party]. It exists right from the grassroots, all the way up to the top,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s something that Theresa is a part of, but I do believe it is something the leadership feels can be easily ignored.”
Her comments come as a pro-Conservative Facebook group was this weekend exposed as sharing and containing Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views about high profile public figures.
Tory councillors have also been recently found sharing posts about “Muslim parasites”, while a Conservative councillor was reinstated to the party after making racists jokes about Asian people in time for May’s local elections.
Baroness Warsi said the issue is tolerated by party leaders because it does not affect its voters.
“I think that there is a general sense in the country that Muslims are fair game and it is not the kind of community where you can treat really badly and have many consequences. You can get any with it,” she said.
The peer, who served as minister without portfolio during the Coalition, pointed the finger at Mr Gove for “radicalising” Mr Cameron during his time in Number 10.
Mr Gove wrote Celsius 7/7, a book about the roots of Islamic terrorism, which saw the former journalist come in for criticism for holding apparent hostile opinions towards Muslims.
“I sometimes joke that Michael Gove radicalised David Cameron,” Ms Warsi said.
“In private conversations [I know that David] had some concerns about some of the extreme views that Michael had but over time [Gove] influenced a lot of his views.”
The Conservatives’ lurch to the right and its wider “Ukipification” can be traced back to Mr Gove, she added.
The Conservative Party was approached for comment, Mr Gove declined to respond.