Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have come under fire for fostering Islamophobia and turning a blind eye to racism? But to what extent is this accurate?

Although the problem of racism within the Conservative Party hasn’t been addressed as much within the mainstream media, compared to the problem of many prominent left-wing political pundits such as Owen Jones and Ash Sarkar the problems of racism and Islamophobia within the Conservative Party and the failure of the party to address it. But is racism a widespread problem within the Tory Party, and if so, what needs to be done to this, should it exist?

In addition to the complaints of Conservative Party MPs such as Derek Laud and Andrew have freely admitted there is ‘endemic racism’ within the party, Sayeeda Warsi, a former party chair and prominent Tory figure, admitted she could not encourage Muslims to join the party, arguing that racism and Islamophobia ran through the ‘top’ of the Party. Since being voted in by Conservative party members during the leadership elections earlier this year, Boris Johnson has been widely criticised over a number of insensitive comments made towards minorities prior to becoming elected, with him coming under fire for comparing gay marriage to sex between ‘three dogs and a man’, claiming that ‘the poorest 20% of British society’ is comprised of "chavs," "losers," "burglars," "drug addicts," and "criminals in an unearthed 2005 column, dismissing workers as ‘drunk, criminal and feckless’, referring to disabled people as ‘spasos’, referring to those devastated by the atrocities of Hillsborough as ‘wallowing in self pity’, describing gay people as ‘tank-topped bumboys’, in addition to a sleu of racially problematic comments made during his time as editor of the Spectator and Mayor of London. Indeed, Boris has been quoted as believing that believing a return to imperialism would be best for Africa, in addition to joking about clearing away dead bodies in Libya, but also describing black people as ‘ with watermelon smiles’, stating in the Spectator that ‘black people broadly have lower IQs’. Furthermore, left-wing political commentators such as Owen Jones have noted the correlation between his incendiary rhetoric towards the Muslim community (likening Muslim women to ‘ and ‘bank-robbers’ for exercising their right to wear a religious garment and arguing Islam has caused the Muslim world to be “literally centuries behind” the west) and the 375% spike in hate crime. Whilst Boris Johnson has defended these remarks as being ‘satirical’ and stating that some of these remarks have been ‘misquoted’, this rhetoric does arguably cast some doubt over whether the Conservative Party suffers to some extent from institutional racism, especially when leading right-wing figures are commenting on supposed problems with and racism.

That said, it would be reductive to simply look at Boris Johnson, the leader of the Conservatives when investigating if there really is a scourge of endemic racism within the Tory Party. Indeed, former leader Theresa May also came under fire for being quoted as saying that ‘the aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants", along with the ‘go home’ vans’ and black British citizens being deported and denied jobs, homes and hospital treatment due to the Windrush scandal. Furthermore, amongst local Tory members and councillors, there has also been a history of racist tropes being peddled, without being duly addressed or reprimanded. In 2009, Bolton Councillor Bob Allen posted a picture of a gorilla next to comments about a colleague, and yet he still remains a Tory councillor to this day, which does raise questions even from an independent perspective. Furthermore, when Tory Councillor complained about the number of Pakistani immigrants in his town (albeit with coarser language), the council’s Leader, Tony Bennett complained that calls for Benson to step down were ‘too harsh’, which also flags up questions as to whether the Tories are doing enough to stamp out the grave threat of racism. Similarly, in 2015, back when Gavin Barwell was an MP the Croydon Conservatives failed to for, or take disciplinary action over, the racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic tweets of Anne Piles, a member of their executive committee.  60% of Conservative Party members think Islam is a threat to and 15 Conservative councillors were quietly reinstated following being suspended for Islamophobia, most notably David to Islam as ‘the religion of rape’ and yet still he wasn’t duly punished by the Tories. 

That said, Boris Johnson’s current Conservative cabinet is amongst the most diverse it has ever been and it would be remiss of me to broadly dismiss the Tory Party as a racist based on specific cases. Whilst the issue of whether the Tory Party en suffers from a trend of institutional racism is nebulous and for you to try and decipher, it is clear that leaders such as Boris Johnson and Theresa May need to be more careful with their rhetoric to ensure they don’t inadvertently foster within their party.