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24 January 2022

Nusrat Ghani puts a weakened Downing Street under further pressure

Whatever the result of Sue Gray’s inquiry, it won’t re-establish Boris Johnson’s dominance over the cabinet and the parliamentary Conservative Party.

By Stephen Bush

The government faces another inquiry after Boris Johnson bowed to pressure from within his cabinet and the parliamentary party to investigate Nusrat Ghani’s claims that she was told that her sacking as a junior minister was a result of her Muslim faith. Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, has identified himself as the whip in question and has denied the allegations.

It would be simplistic to see the fact that Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi both opted to speak out yesterday about the allegations solely as a result of the Prime Minister’s political weakness. Javid in particular has consistently been willing to assert himself on this issue: he used his 2019 leadership bid to bounce the rest of the contenders into holding the Swaran Singh inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and still regards the issue as unfinished business.

But it is nonetheless true that one reason why the Cabinet Office will be tasked with looking into the allegations is that Johnson’s Downing Street is too weak to resist almost any form of cabinet pressure right now. As rows continue to circle about the government’s planned tax rises and the rising cost of living, even if by some miracle Sue Gray’s report does draw a line under “partygate”, the one thing it won’t do is re-establish Johnson’s dominance over the cabinet and the parliamentary party.

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