A right-wing columnist’s suggestion that the upcoming election be held on a Muslim holy day to deter them from voting is unacceptable, Sajid Javid has said.
Rod Liddle’s article in The Spectator magazine also called a Labour MP who spoke out about breaking free of an abusive relationship as “the sobbing and oppressed Rosie ‘#MeToo’ Duffield”.
In an article headlined If you do one thing this election, stop your kids voting, Mr Liddle wrote: “My own choice of election date would be a day when universities are closed and Muslims are forbidden to do anything on pain of hell, or something.
“There must be at least one day like that in the Muslim calendar, surely? That would deliver at least 40 seats to the Tories, I reckon.”
Mr Javid, who has Muslim heritage, responded by saying: “Not clear if the Rod Liddle comment is supposed to be a joke – but it’s not funny and not acceptable.
“No community in our country should be put down that way.”
David Lidington, an outgoing Tory MP and former deputy prime minister, said he was “shocked” the piece was published, criticising the “serious lapse of judgement”.
He tweeted: “Mr Liddle’s foul comment isn’t just some bad joke to be dismissed. What’s he saying to British Muslims in our armed forces, police, NHS, schools, factories etc etc? #disgusting.”
Isabel Hardman, The Spectator’s assistant editor, said in a personal statement she was “hugely upset” with the piece and that she wanted people to know she did not agree with “what he has said about Muslims voting”.
“Similarly, I know personally just how strong and brave survivors of domestic abuse are and Rosie Duffield is one of the finest among us,” she added.
Ms Duffield said she found it “highly disappointing” to read the “racist and misogynistic” article.
The Spectator editor, Fraser Nelson, wrote that the article “was too easily misrepresented and should not have been published in the form that it was.”
But he defended it as no more than a joke, writing that Mr Liddle was: “Satirising the wrangle over the two election dates by making deliberately absurd suggestions.
“At the Spectator, we have writers who disagree passionately with each other: they often make jokes.”
In the same blog post Mr Liddle wrote that his words had been taken “out of context”.
“There was no hate speech or Islamophobia whatsoever in my piece,” he said.
“It was a very light-hearted series of suggestions about when to hold an election, based upon the silly dispute over the proposed dates for the election.
“They were very obviously ludicrous suggestions, satirical in manner, about how to reduce the Labour vote by targeting groups which traditionally vote Labour and occasioned by the wrangling over whether the election should be on December 9 or 12 and the reasons for that wrangling.”
The snap election will go ahead on 12 December, and comes after opposition parties tried to push the government to move it to be four days earlier.