Labour MP’s reaction to Tory claiming party has zero tolerance for racism is priceless
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A Labour MP reacted with theatrical shock to a Tory's claim that the Conservative Party has zero tolerance for racism.
Appearing on the BBC's Politics Live, Clive Lewis appeared taken aback by former Minister Andrew Mitchell's claim that the party tackles allegations of racism "immediately if there's any sign of it."
He said: "Let me be very, very clear. Whether it's anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, the Conservative Party has zero tolerance of that.
"There are structures, strong structures within the Conservative Party, within Conservative Central Office which tackle it immediately if there's any sign of it."
Noting the Tories were in power during the Windrush scandal, and that current Home Secretary had floated the idea of deporting asylum seekers to a volcanic island, Mr Lewis said the claim was "preposterous."
He said: "This is a party that is rooted in racism. For you to just sit there and claim zero tolerance for racism is preposterous and you know it."
Mr Mitchell replied: "I refute that absolutely. The Home Secretary acts within the law. Any action she takes has to be rooted in the law of the land and the powers that Parliament gives her.
"But on the much more serious point that Clive makes, if there is any evidence at all of any Conservative member or Member of Parliament behaving in the way that he described, that evidence should immediately be given to the relevant party authorities, and in the Conservative Party action will be taken."
Andrew Mitchell and Clive Lewis on BBC Politics Live
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The Conservative Party has been criticised for quietly re-admitting members who had been suspended or expelled over allegations of racism.
Last March it emerged some 15 councillors suspended for posting Islamophobic or racist content online had been reinstated.
They included a member who had referred to Saudis as "sand peasants", another who shared material comparing Asian people to dogs and one council leader who praised far right extremist Tommy Robinson as a "patriot."
Sayeeda Warsi, a former Tory minister who now sits in the House of Lords described it as "revolving door racism."
Last September, senior Tory MP Desmond Swayne boasted he had blacked up for a party, said it was "fun", he's not sorry, and the only reason he won't do it again is because it was hard to wash off.
He remains an MP and no disciplinary action was taken.
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In 2017, Tory MP Anne Marie Morris was briefly suspended for five months after using the phrase “n****** in a woodpile” in a discussion about Brexit.
The whip was later restored after she apologised.
In 1989, David Cameron defied international sanctions to go on a trip to apartheid South Africa, on a trip funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime.
The then-Prime Minister apologised for the trip 17 years later, in 2006.
In a 2002 column for the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson (then MP for Henley) described black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”.
He apologised six years later in 2008 (when running to be London Mayor). No disciplinary action was taken by the Conservative Party at any point.
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Mr Johnson later compared women who wear face veils for religious reasons to "bank robbers" and "letter boxes."
He has never apologised, and defended his "right to speak out".
The party was accused of ignoring systematic Islamophobia in its ranks, after Boris Johnson broke his promise to hold an inquiry into the issue.
The promised probe was watered down into a broad-brush review of how the party handles discrimination complaints.
Almost a year on, beyond publishing the terms of the probe in May, little progress appears to have been made.