"St John does not tolerate racism in any way"
A British politician who allegedly said that two Asian ministers “look the same” has been dropped from his charity role.
James Gray MP had been speaking at an event to honour volunteers of St John’s Ambulance (SJA) at Westminster on Wednesday, September 8, 2021.
The Conservative representative for North Wiltshire mistakenly introduced Nadhim Zahawi, who was vaccines minister at the time, instead of Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
A witness told the Daily Mail that when the 66-year-old’s error was pointed out to him, he responded by saying:
“They all look the same to me.”
His comment shocked the guests at the reception.
The witness added that Zahawi, who is currently Education Secretary, had pulled Gray aside for a private conversation following the incident.
However, the MP denied making the remark but said that he had indeed mixed the two Asian politicians up.
He said: “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 two mixed up’.
“The notion that this is some sort of racist remark is ridiculous.
“They are two very good friends of mine.”
However, the SJA soon axed the politician from his position as commander of the Order of St John, which he had acquired in September 2020.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “St John does not tolerate racism in any way, shape or form.
“We spoke with James Gray following the event about our values as an open, inclusive and progressive charity.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “These comments were misjudged.
“We do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind.”
It comes after Gray was forced to apologise in that same month, for a remark which he had made.
The MP suggested that a bomb should be planted in the office of Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds.
The politician had posted the comment in a WhatsApp group ahead of Labour’s conference in Brighton.
Gray said: “It was a foolish remark made on a private WhatsApp and swiftly deleted.
“I meant no offence and am sorry if any was taken.”
However, it became a particular concern among MPs because of the location of the upcoming conference.
Brighton was also where the Conservative Party conference was held in 1984 and Margaret Thatcher was targeted by a bombing.
The politician was first elected MP for North Wiltshire in 1997 and then re-elected in the 2010 general election.