Our website page “Bigots who promote hatred against any religious group have no place in Parliament” gave the background to the visit of Mr Tapan Ghosh from India to an event in Parliament hosted by Bob Blackman MP on 18 October 2017.
All of the members of the Conservative Muslim Forum are members of the Conservative Party, as of course is Mr Blackman. We are extremely conscious of Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
Accordingly, on the page above, we limited ourselves to the least we could say about Mr Blackman in the circumstances:
“Despite several reminders, Mr Blackman has not responded in any way to our correspondence. Nor has he met with us.
We do not wish to speculate about Mr Blackman’s motives for ignoring us.
However, we consider this to be disappointing behaviour by a Member of Parliament, and not an appropriate way to behave with fellow Conservatives.”
This matter came up again following the interview that CMF Chairman Mohammed Amin gave to The Independent newspaper on 5 June 2018. The newspaper used this interview to write their article “Conservatives hoping Islamophobia issue 'will magically go away', warns senior party activist.”
It is clear from the story that after interviewing Mr Amin, The Independent also interviewed Mr Blackman and asked him about Mr Tapan Ghosh. While responding to the newspaper, Mr Blackman made some comments which the newspaper reported as follows.
“Mr Blackman told The Independent: “I have found an email from the Conservative Muslim Forum to which I thought my office had replied. If they would still like to meet, I ask they telephone my office to make an appointment.””
We have no reason to believe that the newspaper has reported Mr Blackman’s comments inaccurately.
Any newspaper reader would reasonably conclude from Mr Blackman’s comments that:
As this would leave the newspaper’s readers with a wholly inaccurate understanding, the CMF Executive has decided to itemise the communications that took place in the five months between 19 October 2017 when the Tapan Ghosh visit took place and 28 March 2018 when the CMF published its website piece linked above.
This will enable readers to draw their own conclusions regarding the accuracy of Mr Blackman’s comments to The Independent newspaper.
I will keep this email brief, as I am conscious that anything in writing is capable of leaking.
I would like to meet with you to discuss what you are going to say in public about the event you hosted where Tapan Ghosh spoke.
At present, the CMF has not make any public pronouncement itself, although Lord Sheikh, who is our President, has issued a couple of press releases of his own. I can let you have copies if you have not seen them.
Before the CMF says anything in public, I would like to meet with you.
Please could you have your PA telephone me to discuss diaries.
When I sent my email to Bob Blackman MP on Monday, it was after ringing his Parliamentary Office and only getting voicemail.
Having not had any response to my email, apart from the standard automatic confirmation of receipt, I rang Bob’s office again today.
I got one of his members of staff. I told her that I had not received a reply to my email yet, which she indicated was not unusual. (Obviously I am aware that MPs get deluged in email.)
I explained to her what the email was about, and that I wanted to meet with Bob this week or next.
I also stressed that this was not an issue that Bob could ignore and that the approach Bob took would influence what approach the CMF took.
She was left in no doubt of the seriousness of the issue, and I am sure that the email will be put in front of Bob almost immediately.
What happens next is of course up to him. If we get no response at all, we will take that non-response into account.
[Mr Amin recalls clearly that during the telephone conversation the member of staff fished up the email on her computer, but he did not mention that fact in his contemporaneous email to his CMF Executive colleagues as it was not material.]
Mohammed Amin posted a physical letter to Rt Hon Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP, who was then Chairman of the Conservative Party.
Physical copies of this letter were posted to Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Leader, The Conservative Party and to Bob Blackman MP at his House of Commons address.
We do not wish to publish the letter but have reproduced below the final four paragraphs:
“As you would expect, many British Muslims have approached the CMF and approached individual members of our Executive asking what the CMF is going to do about the Conservative Party hosting Mr Ghosh in Parliament. (While the action was that of one MP, it is seen as the action of the Party.)
An issue like this, involving someone like Mr Ghosh who propagates venomous hatred of Muslims, is not something that we can ignore. However, unlike some organisations we do not believe in knee-jerk responses. That is why I wrote to Bob asking him to meet me, before the CMF issues a public statement. The request to meet has fallen on deaf ears.
We cannot wait any longer and will issue a public statement on the matter by mid-January. It is not yet drafted, since I am still hopeful that Bob can be persuaded to help us to make the statement as good as possible by sharing his thoughts with us in a meeting. That is why I have written to you.”
Mr Lewis wrote to Mr Amin. While this letter was not sent to Mr Blackman as far as we are aware, it helps readers to be aware of this letter as part of the chronology.
An extract from this letter was quoted on our website page about Tapan Ghosh linked above.
CMF Executive Member Mike Mogul represented the CMF at an event running from 14:00 to 18:00 at The Philbeach Hall, 51 Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, SW5 organised by Kensington Chelsea and Fulham Conservatives. Mr Blackman was one of the speakers at this event.
During that afternoon, Mr Mogul took the opportunity to have a private conversation with Mr Blackman about the visit of Mr Ghosh to Parliament on 19 October 2017. Mr Blackman gave his explanation of the visit, which was essentially the same as he gave in Parliament on 26 October 2017 as reported on our website page linked above.
Mr Mogul reminded Mr Blackman that he still needed to write back to Mr Amin and Mr Blackman confirmed to Mr Mogul that he would do so.
Mohammed Amin and CMF Deputy Chairman Ash Zaman met with Mr Lewis and one of his CCHQ colleagues in his office at CCHQ.
The meeting was wide-ranging but included a discussion about Mr Bob Blackman’s complete failure to respond to the CMF in any way regarding Mr Tapan Ghosh. Mr Lewis indicated that he would contact Mr Blackman and ask him to respond to us.
We assume that Mr Lewis did so, but have no actual knowledge either way.
Having decided that we could wait no longer for Mr Blackman to respond to us, the CMF published the website page linked above.
Our comments about Mr Blackman on that page are repeated above. Readers who are not members of the Conservative Party may consider that our comments about Mr Blackman were exceptionally mild, but that demonstrates the extent to which we follow the Eleventh Commandment.
A further illustration of our reluctance to criticise a fellow Conservative is that we did not share our website page linked above using our Facebook or Twitter accounts, or draw it to the attention of the media.
Telephone: Shaheen Thantrey on 020 7984 8248
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