Conservative Party excuses for not investigating Islamophobia allegations against Zac Goldsmith are ‘disingenuous,’ says lawyer who filed a police complaint against him

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Zac Goldsmith and Boris Johnson

  • A report into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has revealed just one formal complaint was received into the party’s controversial 2016 London mayoral campaign.
  • A lawyer who had complained about the campaign to the Metropolitan Police told Insider she declined to complain directly to the party because it would not be treated “in a serious way”.
  • Vasisht’s complaint to the Metropolitan Police was not pursued by the force.
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A lawyer who filed a police report against the Conservative Party’s controversial campaign for Zac Goldsmith to succeed Boris Johnson as Mayor of London in 2016, has hit out at the party for failing to investigate allegations of Islamophobia leveled against it.

A report, commissioned by the party and published on Tuesday, found that the campaign had been perceived by many people as attempting to play on anti-Muslim sentiment in the capital.

It also found that Islamophobia “remains a problem” in the party and contained an apology from Johnson for “for any offence taken” by his own previous comments about Islam.

However, while examining why no action was taken at the time, the report found that the Conservatives had received just one official complaint against Goldsmith’s campaign, some four years after it had finished.

This is despite the fact that Goldsmith’s campaign was widely-criticised by both opponents and members of his own party at the time.

Anita Vasisht, whose own complaint against Goldsmith’s campaign was not pursued by the Metropolitan Police, told Insider she felt at the time that a report through the Conservatives’ complaints procedure would not be treated “in a serious way”.

Speaking on Tuesday, she told Insider: “When such serious concerns are out there in the public domain it is for the political party to take action. It is disingenuous to sit there twiddling thumbs, waiting for an official complaint to come in. Reports in the news of the outrage were out on a daily basis.

“I did think about putting in a formal complaint. But if they weren’t going to self-report based on the serious concerns, then what could an individual putting in a complaint achieve?

“I couldn’t imagine putting in an individual complaint would be treated in a serious way.”

She believes the Conservative party ought to have initiated an investigation in response to the extensive press coverage of the outrage into Goldsmith’s campaign.

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The Singh Investigation into alleged discrimination within the Conservative Party, published on Tuesday, included as a case study Goldsmith’s campaign, which it says was “widely reported as ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic'”. It revealed it had determined the Conservative Party had received one official complaint against Lord Goldsmith, submitted four years after the campaign, in which he lost against Sadiq Khan, the present Mayor of London, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin.

Lord Goldsmith, who was made a member of the House of Lords in 2020, is presently a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as well as the Foreign Office.

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Conservative Party leaflet in the 2016 London Mayoral election.

In 2016, Anita Vasisht, a solicitor, filed a report with the police on Goldsmith’s campaign, after receiving a letter from David Cameron, then the prime minister, urging her to vote for Goldsmith. Cameron wrote to Vasisht about how “The British Indian Community Makes London Great”, and that “your community has a key role to play” in strengthening the relationship between the UK and India.

Others received letters warning that Khan would “experiment with … radical policies” on taxation targeting their “family’s heirlooms and belongings.”

Vasisht decided to report the campaign to the police. She wrote: “There is… a real concern that, in targeting apparently those voters identified as ‘British Indians’… the intention of Zac Goldsmith and others including the prime minister would appear to be to deliberately incite feelings of hatred for Sadiq Khan in those believed to be of Indian (presumably Hindu) ethnicity – and this, in order to win their votes,” the Guardian reported in 2016.

The party’s complaints system “falls short” of best practice

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Zac Goldsmith, Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister David Cameron.

The most significant case study in the report regards comments made by Boris Johnson, the prime minister.

In 2018, Johnson wrote in the Telegraph that women in burqas “go around looking like letterboxes”. Johnson told the investigation his writings were often “parodic, satirical”, and that his article was “an honest defence for a woman’s right to wear what she chooses”.

The report also cited remarks made by Johnson including an article where he said that “to any non-Muslim reader of the Quran, Islamophobia – fear of Islam – seems a natural reaction”, and another where he wrote of the Congo where “the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles” upon Tony Blair’s arrival.

The investigation offered Johnson the opportunity to apologise for his past remarks. Johnson told the investigation: “I do know that offence has been taken at things I’ve said, that people expect a person in my position to get things right, but in journalism you need to use language freely. I am obviously sorry for any offence taken.

“Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am Prime Minister, I would not.”

No further comment has since been issued by Johnson or his spokesman.

The report found two-thirds of all incidents reported on the complaints database related to allegations of anti-Muslim discrimination.

It called for an overhaul of the Conservative Party’s complaints system, saying there was “an under-resourced and inadequately trained Complaints Team and a weak data collection system”, and that it “falls short” of best practice as recommended by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The report also concluded that allegations made by Baroness Warsi that the party was institutionally racist and Islamophobic were “not borne out by the evidence”, saying “no evidence was found to support the suggestion that the Party had collectively or systematically failed any particular community or group in its processes for dealing with complaints relating to Protected Characteristics, including race, religion or belief, or specifically Islam.”

Amanda Milling MP, the co-chair of the Conservative Party, said today that the party has accepted all the recommendations made in the report.

She said: “It is clear that there have been failings in our complaints process and we will begin work on implementing the recommendations set out by the investigation. We will be publishing our plan to implement these recommendations in six weeks’ time.”

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A conservative group told donors it’s secretly helping Republican state legislatures draft bills to restrict voting, including in Georgia and Texas, leaked video shows

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Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • GOP-led legislatures are passing voting and election reform laws in states across the country.
  • In a leaked video, a conservative group told donors it’s quietly helping lawmakers draft the bills.
  • Many of the bills have been fueled by unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A conservative group told its top donors that it has been quietly working to help state legislatures pass voting laws that will “right the wrongs of November,” according to a leaked video.

Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, said during a private meeting in Arizona last month that the group has even drafted some of the legislation that’s been signed into law.

“We’re working with these state legislatures to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills. In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said in the video, which was obtained by the watchdog group Documented and published by Mother Jones on Thursday.

Read more: Corporate America’s response to restrictive voting laws in Georgia and Texas isn’t benevolence. It’s about economics and profit, experts say.

Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide are seeking to pass voting rights reform, largely fueled by the false and unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter and election fraud in the 2020 election. GOP lawmakers say the bills are about election integrity and restoring trust, while Democrats say they are restrictive and give credence to baseless claims of fraud.

Iowa passed a law in March that cut the state’s early voting period and closed the polls earlier on election day, after Iowans turned out in record numbers in the fall. Georgia passed a high-profile and controversial law overhauling its elections that critics blasted as oppressive.

Texas is also considering new election-related measures that could restrict voting.

“Iowa was the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly, and we did it quietly. Honestly, nobody noticed,” Anderson told the group’s donors.

“At the end of the day, the bill that Gov. Kemp signed, and the Georgia legislature marshaled through, had eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” she said. Another bill being considered in Texas had “19 provisions” that were written by Heritage Action, Anderson said.

The Associated Press reported it was known that Heritage Action, which is a sister organization of the influential conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, was working with lawmakers, but that “it is rare to hear a leader detail how a group masks involvement to give the bills the appearance of broad political support.”

Anderson told AP in a statement that the group is “proud of our work to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

“That work begins at the state level through our grassroots and continues in state legislatures throughout the country,” she said.

Anderson, who also worked in the Trump administration, has pushed unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the past. On Fox News in December, in reference to Georgians newly registering for the runoff election, she said “this is exactly the type of fraud that we have been raising the red flag for months now,” without citing any evidence of fraud. She added “we know that the fraud is real.”

The group, along with former president Donald Trump’s campaign and the US Justice Department, have been unable to find evidence of widespread fraud. But Anderson said the group is motivated by what it believes went wrong in the last election.

“We are going to take the fierce fire that is in every single one of our bellies to right the wrongs of November,” she said in the new video.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Arizona Republican committee is debating a proposal to censure Cindy McCain, wife of the late GOP Sen. John McCain

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Cindy McCain embraces GOP Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona at an Election night party on November 6, 2018.

  • The Republican committee in Arizona’s most populous county considered censuring Cindy McCain, the widow of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, according to The Arizona Republic.
  • The Maricopa County Republican Committee floated a proposal on Saturday that would have censured McCain, but the measure did not move forward.
  • The state party confirmed via Twitter that they would vote on a resolution to censure McCain on Jan. 23.
  • Cindy McCain was a prominent Republican supporter of President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign against President Donald Trump.
  • “I am a proud lifelong Republican and will continue to support candidates who put country over party and stand for the rule of law,” she tweeted on Jan. 9.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Republican committee in Arizona’s most populous county considered censuring Cindy McCain, the widow of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, according to The Arizona Republic.

The Maricopa County Republican Committee discussed a proposal on Saturday that would have censured McCain, but the measure did not move forward, according to an acting secretary at the event.

However, the state party confirmed on Twitter that they would vote on a resolution to censure McCain on Jan. 23.

Taking such an action would be a radical departure from her longstanding position of influence within the Arizona Republican Party. McCain’s late husband, Sen. McCain, represented the state in the US Senate from 1987 until his death in 2018, and was the GOP presidential nominee in 2008.

However, the Maricopa GOP did censure former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who served in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013 and the Senate from 2013 to 2019 and endorsed President-elect Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Read more: How full Democratic control of Washington DC could transform real estate

In response to the proposed censure, McCain reaffirmed her Republican bona fides.

“I am a proud lifelong Republican and will continue to support candidates who put country over party and stand for the rule of law,” she wrote on Twitter.

Cindy McCain, who has endured repeated insults aimed at her late husband from Trump, was a prominent Republican surrogate for President-elect Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Biden, who served in the US Senate for 36 years, most of them alongside Sen. McCain, has been close with the McCain family for years. 

The president-elect was the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Arizona since 1996, capturing the fast-growing Southwestern state by more than 10,000 votes.

During the 2020 Democratic National Convention, McCain had a prime speaking slot, where she fondly recalled the relationship between Biden and her late husband.

Cindy McCain has never held elective office, but in November, she was reportedly being considered to become Biden’s US Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

On Jan. 2, her daughter, Meghan McCain, took to Twitter to blast the Arizona GOP after they sent out a disparaging tweet blasting Sen. McCain.

“As the sun sets on 2020, remember that we’re never going back to the party of [Mitt] Romney, Flake, and McCain,” the Arizona GOP’s official Twitter account said. “The Republican Party is now, and forever will be, one for the working man and woman! God bless.”

Meghan McCain replied that whoever was running the account could “go to hell.”

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