Suella Braverman has been accused of using “racist rhetoric” by a Conservative former co-chairwoman of the party.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi hit out at a number of remarks the Home Secretary has made, and said it has “it has got to stop”.
The Tory peer did not specify which specific remarks she was referring to as racist, but highlighted Ms Braverman’s comments on small boats crossing the Channel, and her singling out British Pakistani men over concerns about grooming gangs.
Speaking to LBC, Lady Warsi said: “I think the Prime Minister has to get a really strong message that this kind of rhetoric, whether it’s on small boats, whether it’s the stuff she was saying on the weekend which is not based on evidence, not nuanced, not kind of explanatory in any way, it has got to stop.
“And you know, again today, we’ve woken up to a story where she’s having a go at the police for removing golliwog dolls from a pub.”
Later in the interview, she said: “I don’t think any of my colleagues can use the pigment in their skin as some sort of a defence mechanism to say they are not racist. You know brown people can be racist too.”
Asked if she was calling the Home Secretary racist, she said: “I am calling her rhetoric racist. I am.”
She went on: “I say that as somebody who was subjected to racism growing up, you know, in the 70s and 80s. This is not a term that I use loosely.
“And it’s certainly not a term that I use easily when I talk about another woman of colour. Another Parliamentarian of colour. But I think that somehow we have to call this out.”
The Tory peer also told the Mirror: “I genuinely felt with the change in leadership with Rishi Sunak becoming Prime Minister that we were going to return to some level of grown up politics. I just think the Home Secretary keeps dragging him back into the gutter.”
She said: “I think we need to make it clear that this isn’t going to be our strategy for the next 18 months – racist rhetoric and rabble rousing.”
Further criticising Ms Braverman’s remarks, Lady Warsi added: “There’s either an issue of deliberate divisive rhetoric or there’s an issue of competence, but either way the Prime Minister’s got to get a grip on this.”
Essex Police has denied being directly reprimanded by the Home Secretary for sending five officers to seize a collection of dolls considered racist from a pub.
On April 2, Ms Braverman was speaking about Government measures to tackle grooming gangs when she singled out British Pakistani men as a major source of concern.
Ms Braverman drew criticism for repeatedly alluding to cases including in Rotherham and Rochdale that involved groups of men of mainly Pakistani ethnicity.
She described a “predominance of certain ethnic groups – and I say British Pakistani males – who hold cultural values totally at odds with British values, who see women in a demeaned and illegitimate way and pursue an outdated and frankly heinous approach in terms of the way they behave”.
Her language was criticised by some campaigners, with the NSPCC emphasising that only considering race could create new “blind spots”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has been clear that all despicable child abusers must be brought to justice. And she will not shy away from telling hard truths, particularly when it comes to the grooming of young women and girls in Britain’s towns who have been failed by authorities over decades.
“As the Home Secretary has said, the vast majority of British-Pakistanis are law-abiding, upstanding citizens but independent reports were unequivocal that in towns like Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford cultural sensitivities have meant thousands of young girls were abused under the noses of councils and police.
“That’s why we have announced a raft of measures, including a new police taskforce and mandatory reporting, to ensure this horrific scandal can never happen again, and bring members of grooming gangs to justice for the victims.”