A former Tory council candidate who made statements in support of racist group Generation Identity (GI) is still "suspended pending investigation", even as calls are made for an urgent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
In April, VICE revealed that Darren Harrison, a council candidate in Watford, attended events hosted by the ethno-nationalist group GI, whose leaders have been banned from the UK. He also showed support for Islamophobic hate preacher Tommy Robinson and is close to a network of alt-right vloggers, including Tommy Robinson's former camera-operator.
Harrison had been pictured campaigning with Conservative Party deputy chairman James Cleverly, and tweeted that Cleverly is "The man himself" and "If getting @JamesCleverly across to Watford doesn't get me voted in, nothing will!" He has also been pictured attending an event with Conservative Party Chairman Brendon Lewis.
The revelations about Harrison are just one of ten instances of Islamophobia noted in a letter sent from The Muslim Council of Britain to the Conservative Party this week, demanding – yet again – an urgent enquiry into Islamophobia within the party.
The MCB letter also mentions the repeated Islamophobic incidents associated with Bob Blackman MP, who was revealed by VICE on Tuesday to have been a member of several far-right and racist Facebook groups. Blackman said he was unaware that he had been added to the groups.
The MCB calls their examples of Tories saying dodgy things about Muslims "the tip of the iceberg".
Commenting on the letter, a Conservative Party spokesperson said, "We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended all those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations."
These investigations may have been launched immediately, but they also seem to immediately hit the buffers and go nowhere in particular. When VICE asked for an update on Harrison's case, six weeks after we first wrote about him, a Conservative Party spokesperson said: "Darren Harrison has been suspended. An investigation is underway."
Meanwhile, Harrison is back on Twitter. His profile says "Conservative. From Watford", and he is pictured holding Tory party campaigning materials. He tweeted encouraging people to vote in the recent council elections and has re-tweeted the official Conservative Party account.
Harrison has also tweeted praise for a Rebel Media video by far-right commentator Jack Buckby titled "Tory 'Islamophobia'? I Wish!" Buckby refers to Harrison’s suspension and dismisses his support for Generation Identity as uncontroversial, saying "yawn". In the video, Buckby dismisses Baroness Warsi, one of the highest profile Muslim Tories, as a "perpetual victim". He claims she is "back on the warpath again, moaning that there are near weekly incidents of Islamophobic events".
"No, there isn’t a problem with criticism of Islam in the Conservative Party," he concludes. "If there was, millions of people across the country would probably have more of a reason to vote for them."
Harrison has also retweeted an encouragement to follow 'Defend Europa", a racist website that gave an arse-kissing interview to the co-leader of the UK branch of Generation Identity, and is a sewer of virulently Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and racist content.
"Ultimately, I dared to dream of a return to the demographics of the 1950s, where Britain was almost completely White," writes one Defend Europa contributor, explaining why he was suspended from Twitter. An article with the headline "Holocaust Memorial Day: A Celebration of European Guilt" claims that the media is "invariably Jewish-owned".
Harrison has also shown support for the racist statements of top Tories. When Conservative MP Nadine Dorries tweeted at journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown that she should "appreciate just a little the country… you benefit from" after the columnist called Britain "an infantilised, escapist nation", she was criticised for using a racist trope. But Harrison was pleased, tweeting, "The faith in the party I (Not currently) represent has gone up slightly." (Dorries has described the idea that she is racist as "laughable".)
When approached by VICE, Harrison was happy to confirm that he is still suspended, but did not answer questions about his sharing of yet more far-right material.
Following our initial revelations, Harrison denied being a supporter of Generation Identity, telling the Guardian: "I do not support their views, but support their right to have their views, as I do anyone else, as long as it does not promote violence, which – to my knowledge – it does not."
As we recently pointed out, the MCB made calls for an inquiry in 2016, following Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign, which was seen as, at best, dogwhistle racism. (Goldsmith later expressed regret over it, and insisted he didn't have a racist bone in his body.) They made the call again in 2017, after Goldsmith was selected to run as an MP. No such inquiry ever took place and no meetings were held between the MCB and Conservative Party.
All these suspensions and "immediate" yet curiously lengthy investigations clearly don’t amount to the urgent inquiry MCB are pushing for. How much longer will they be able to sweep this under the carpet?