Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Tory MP ditched by charity ‘over comments made about two Asian ministers’

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James Gray, Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi
Veteran MP James Gray sparked a race row after saying two Asian minister look alike (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock/PA)

A Tory MP has been forced to deny being a racist after reportedly saying two Asian ministers ‘look the same to me’.

James Gray reportedly made the remark when he introduced Nadhim Zahawi at an event and mistakenly referred to him as the health secretary, a position held by Sajid Javid.

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The comment came after his mistake was pointed out to him in front of 50 invited guests, including opposition leader Keir Starmer.

One eye witness told MailOnline Mr Zahawi immediately had a ‘private conversation’ with the 66-year-old North Wiltshire MP after they came off stage. 

The incident reportedly happened at a reception on September 8 but has only recently come to light.

Mr Gray was hosting the event in his capacity as a commander of the St John Ambulance.

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The volunteer services has asked him to step down from his roles with the organisation, telling the paper that charity bosses spoke to the MP about the comment following the event.

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire
The Tory party has criticised comments made by John Gray, who has been in parliament for 24 years (Picture: PA)
Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi
Nadhim Zahawi – whose parents fled Iraq when he was a child – was vaccines minister at the time the comments were made (Picture: Story Picture Agency/REX/Shutterstock)

Both Mr Zahawi, who was the vaccines minister at the time, and Mr Javid have Asian heritage.

Mr Zahawi’s parents fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq when he was nine-years-old and settled in the UK. 

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Alongside Mr Javid, who was born in Lancashire to Pakistani immigrant parents, he has risen to become one of Boris Johnson’s most trusted ministers.

The Conservative party has moved to distance itself from its own member of parliament. A spokesperson told the website: ‘These comments were misjudged. We do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind.’   

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal described the remarks as racist, comparing the incident to then-education secretary mixing up footballer Marcus Rashford and rugby player Maro Itoje last month.

The former CPS boss tweeted: ‘First you had Williamson mistaking 1 Black sportsman for another.

 Conservative MP for North Wiltshire James Gray rides with the Avon Vale Hunt
Mr Gray – pictured here foxhunting in 2011 – apologised last month after making a joke about a Labour MP having a bomb delivered to her office (Picture: Getty)

‘Now you have James Gray MP saying he can’t tell two of his own ministers apart because Asians “all look the same”

‘Strange that, he looks just like a racist to me.’

Mr Gray denied being racist to MailOnline and disputed the exact words he reportedly used, but admitted he had confused them and commented that they look alike.

He denied saying ‘they all look the same to me’ and gave his own version of events to the Mail: ‘The notion that this is some sort of racist remark is ridiculous. They are two very good friends of mine.

‘I said ‘I am sorry to confuse the two of you. You two look very alike’.

‘I said ‘I am sorry if I got you too mixed up’. The idea that this is racist is completely untrue.

Sajid Javid in Downing Street, London
Gray compared Mr Zahawi and health secretary Sajid Javid in front of shocked guests at an event (Picture: PA)

‘Nadhim did not speak to me about it afterwards, he spoke to a lot of people.

‘They are very close friends of me, both men.’

It’s not the first time Mr Gray, who was first elected in 1997, has drawn criticism for his remarks. 

Last month he apologised after ‘joking’ about a bomb being delivered to Labour chairwoman Annaleise Dodds’ office in a private WhatsApp group with other Tory MPs.

In 2005, he had to resign as shadow Scotland secretary after just a few days when he told reporters he thought devolution should be rolled back.

He drew further criticism in 2010 for telling a Glasgow MP to ‘get back to jockland’ – despite originally being from Scotland himself.

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