A senior Conservative has apologised "for the offence caused" after he told his Sikh Labour rival that he was "talking through his turban" — but he will not be suspended as a Tory candidate.
Philip Dunne, who has been the MP for Ludlow for 14 years, made the remark to his opponent Kuldip Sahota at a hustings event on Wednesday night.
Dunne was condemned by the Sikh Tories group on Thursday morning, who said: "We're disappointed by the offensive remarks made by Philip Dunne at the Ludlow hustings. These comments are simply unacceptable."
Sahota said the remark reminded him of the racism he received in decades past.
“I was shocked and deeply hurt that someone who was an MP for 14 years would make such a derogatory comment about the Sikh faith. This is extremely insulting to the Sikh community. These are the kind of offensive comments I remember receiving in the 1970," he said.
Labour called on the Tories to suspend Dunne as a candidate. Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said it was a “disgusting, racist remark”.
“The Conservatives must suspend him immediately and strip him of his honour. Anything less than that will be condoning blatant racism," he added,
But the Tories indicated they would not suspend Dunne — who served as a minister under Theresa May and David Cameron — after he offered an apology to Sahota "for the offence caused".
Dunne said in a statement: “I apologised to Kuldip Sahota for my comments last night. I apologise again unreservedly for the offence caused.”
Sikh Labour MP Tan Dhesi said:“Boris Johnson said Conservative members who make racist comments are ‘out first bounce’. Once again, Boris Johnson was clearly lying.
He went on: “Philip Dunne hasn’t demonstrated any understanding of why his comment was racist. It’s a disgrace that the Conservatives are standing by someone who has publicly attacked the Sikh community. In doing so, Boris Johnson is sending the message that it’s okay to be racist towards British Sikhs and to openly humiliate us in public forums.”