Tories ‘playing the Corbyn card’ with Islamophobia, minister told

Conservative minister Robert Buckland. Photograph: BBC.

Conservative minister Robert Buckland. Photograph: BBC. - Credit: BBC

A Tory minister has been accused of avoiding the 'searchlight' of scrutiny on his party's problem with Islamophobia, and was compared to the Labour leader for its milquetoast response to the issue.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland was confronted on BBC's Andrew Neil show with examples of egregious prejudice towards Muslims by Conservative party figures, both of whom had been suspended and then "quietly" re-admitted to the party.

One had compared Muslims to people who need to face up to a drinking problem, and another said Muslim children looked like "bin bags". Buckland condemned the instances.

Another Conservative councillor has been reinstated after Islamophobic comments but has not offered any comment to The New European.

MORE: Tories reinstate councillor who made Islamophobic postsWATCH: Sajid Javid refuses to criticise Boris Johnson over comments about MuslimsNeil then showed Buckland a clip from a BBC Tory leadership debate in the summer, in which then-candidate Sajid Javid unexpectedly elicited a promise from every other candidate that they would commit to "an external investigation into Conservative Party Islamophobia".

Since then, the Boris Johnson-led party has watered that commitment down to a generalised review of "prejudice" in all forms in the party.

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Questioned by Neil on this, Buckland said the review would start before the end of 2019 and will report in the new year. "It will be independently run and I and others will take a very close look at it to make sure the party is actually following any recommendations."

Nail pointed out that the party was "broadening" its investigation beyond the key issue of Islamophobia.

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"We want to make sure that all types of prejudice whether it's based on race or religion are dealt with," replied Buckland. "I think it's important within the context of Islamophobia that we understand that anti-Muslim prejudice might be one branch of it, it might be religious-based prejudice - we've got to get this right in order to do a thorough job."

"What it sounds like now is that you're playing the Corbyn card," said Neil.

"You ask Mr Corbyn about anti-Semitism, as I have done, and he starts talking about racism of all kinds. He never zooms in just on the anti-Semitism."

In an earlier interview, Jeremy Corbyn had refused to make a new apology to Jews for the distress they have experienced at the hands of anti-Semitism within his party. The Labour leader has been criticised for reframing the discussion around "all forms of racism" when public concern primarily focuses on the party's attitude to Judaism.

Neil brought the same criticism to the Conservative Party's handling of Islamophobia, saying: "Your party leaders, they promised an investigation into Islamophobia, because from these examples that's the clear and pressing danger in your party.

"Now you're going to broaden it out into all sorts of things. Because you might be frightened of what you find if the searchlight on your party was just on Islamophobia."

Buckland said that the party will focus on whatever issues come to light, and highlighted an apology made by the prime minister earlier in the day.

Boris Johnson earlier offered a generalised apology for the hurt caused to Muslims as a result of Islamophobia within his party.

WATCH: Boris Johnson apologises for 'hurt and offence' caused by Islamophobia in Tory partyHowever, the Labour party points out that Corbyn has apologised numerous times prior to that occasion.

Boris Johnson has long defended his opinion articles for the Telegraph, written in defence of the liberty to choose what to wear, in which he described Muslim women in niqab as "letterboxes".

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