A Tory MP who has been repeatedly accused of endorsing Islamophobia has been a member of several far-right and Islamophobic Facebook groups, VICE can reveal.
Bob Blackman is a member of "Britain for the British", "For Britain Political Party" and "Pendragons Fight Back".
"Britain for the British" is a group administered by British National Party supporter Steven Devlin. It features numerous comments which praise Hitler, and many more which wish violence upon Muslim Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, accusing him of being an "Islamofascist" and "traitor", and hoping that he dies.
"Pendragons Fight Back" is another far-right Islamophobic group. Members of the group celebrated when activists calling themselves "The White Pendragons" brought along a gallows to a Fabian Society event and tried to "citizens' arrest" speaker Sadiq Khan.
"For Britain Political Party" describes itself as a group for "supporters and members of Anne Marie Waters party For Britain". Anne Marie Waters is a co-founder of anti-Islam group Pegida UK and was regarded as the far-right candidate in UKIP's recent leadership elections. After failing to become UKIP leader, she started the "For Britain" political party. The group Blackman was a member of is not the official Facebook group of For Britain.
Blackman appears to have been added unwittingly to all of these groups by his Facebook friends, and in the normal course of events would have received a notification upon being added. The MP – who insists he is not racist and says he has now removed himself from the groups – has not interacted in any of these groups.
However, over the last few years, Blackman has been accused of Islamophobia several times.
In March of 2018, Blackman shared an article from a US anti-Muslim website called Hardcore News USA titled: "Muslim Somali sex gang say raping white British children 'part of their culture'."
Next, in October of 2017, Blackman twice hosted Indian Hindu nationalist Tapan Ghosh in the Houses of Parliament. Ghosh has accused all Muslims of being jihadis, appeared on Tommy Robinson’s YouTube channel, justified the persecution of Rohingya Muslims and claimed on Twitter that "1 million white English children may have been the victims of Muslim rape gangs".
In February of 2016, Blackman retweeted a post by former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson containing a link to an article about Muslim violence against Hindus. According to Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) spokesperson Miqdaad Versi, Blackman failed to undo this retweet for three weeks after the Times reported on it. Blackman told the Times, "This was retweeted in error. I condemn the views of Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League.”
According to the Jewish Chronicle, Blackman describes himself as a "Chrinjew – a Christian with Jewish roots, and an honorary Hindu", and he "has built strong relationships with [his constituency’s] Jewish, Hindu and Christian communities".
MCB spokesperson Miqdaad Versi told VICE: "This is the fourth incident of its kind featuring Bob Blackman and anti-Muslim sentiment. Real action needs to be taken by the Conservative Party."
The Conservative Party has yet to take any action against Blackman and did not respond to a request for comment from VICE. According to the former Daily Telegraph political correspondent Peter Oborne, both Theresa May and former Conservative Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin have been warned about Blackman by at least one senior Tory.
As the MCB's Miqdaad Versi pointed out, Blackman appears to have been treated more leniently than several Conservative councillors, who have been removed from their positions for sharing far-right posts.
Last month, Conservative council candidate Darren Harrison was suspended pending investigation after VICE revealed he had showed support for a far-right group.
Also in April, Councillor Mike Payne was suspended after sharing an article which referred to Muslims as parasites, while council candidate Alexander van Terheyden was suspended after defending the crusades and attending a rally headed by Tommy Robinson.
According to the former chair of the Conservative Party, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, these are not isolated incidents. She told Peston on Sunday last month: "Within my own party there are almost now weekly occurrences of Islamophobic incidents and rhetoric."
The MCB has been calling for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party since 2016, following Zac Goldsmith’s controversial Mayoral campaign. During this campaign, Goldsmith described his Muslim opponent Sadiq Khan as "radical", claimed that London would not be safe under his watch, and suggested he had associated with extremists. The Conservative Party did not respond to the MCB’s call for an inquiry and has not held any meetings with the organisation on the issue.
After losing his seat, Goldsmith was chosen to stand again as a candidate for Richmond Park and North Kingston in 2017, and was returned to Parliament as a Conservative MP.
In March of 2018, another Conservative MP was accused of Islamophobia. When Sadiq Khan tweeted "it’s time to act on hate speech", Nadine Dorries replied: "How about, 'it’s time to act on sex abusing grooming gangs,' instead? #TelfordGrooming #Rotherham #Priorities #leadership". Dorries was criticised for appearing to blame a Muslim Mayor of London for crimes happening outside of London.
Blackman told VICE: "I was completely unaware I had been added to these groups, I never participated in them and immediately removed myself from them when I became aware I had been added without my knowledge or permission. I would never have knowingly joined such groups and I condemn their views."