Crispin Blunt: who is MP, what he said about Imran Khan after conviction - how Chris Bryant and others reacted
Crispin Blunt has apologised for describing the jury conviction of fellow Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan as a “dreadful miscarriage of justice”
Tory MP Crispin Blunt has apologised for his defence of convicted child sex offender Imran Ahamd Khan.
The former Conservative justice minister was branded “disgraceful” for questioning the jury conviction of his fellow MP Imran Ahmad Khan, saying he was the victim of a “dreadful miscarriage of justice”.
His comments came after the Wakefield MP, 48, was found guilty of sexually assualting a 15-year-old boy on Monday (11 April), after forcing him to drink gin at a party 14 years ago.
A spokesman for the Tories said Khan, who was 34 at the time of the offence, had been expelled from the party “with immediate effect” following the decision at Southwark Crown Court.
Khan will be thrown out of the House of Commons if he is handed a prison sentence of more than a year, or otherwise could be subject to a petition to oust him in the recall process.
Who is Crispin Blunt?
Crispin Blunt is a Conservative MP who has served as MP for Reigate since 1997, and from May 2010 to September 2012 he was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Youth Justice within the Ministry of Justice.
He first entered the House of Commons in the 1997 general election, replacing then MP Sir George Gardiner, who had been deselected by the Constituency Conservative Association Executive Council and joined the Referendum Party.
In 2013, Blunt was himself deselected by the Constituency Executive Council, with speculation that this was due to his public announcement that he was gay, but after a ballot of party members in Reigate, the decision was overturned by a margin of 5–1 and he was reselected as the Tory candidate for the 2015 general election.
What did Crispin Blunt say?
In a statement published on his website, Mr Blunt, who came out as gay in 2010, said the jury’s decision was “nothing short of an international scandal”.
The jury took about five hours to decide the MP was guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy, who is now 29, after hearing how Khan, a gay Muslim elected to Parliament in 2019, forced the then-teenager to drink gin and tonic, dragged him upstairs, pushed him on to a bed and asked him to watch pornography before the attack at a house in Staffordshire in January 2008.
But Mr Blunt, who was at the London court on Monday, said the case “relied on lazy tropes about LGBT+ people” and argued the result had “dreadful wider implications” for LGBT Muslims “around the world”.
“His conviction today is nothing short of an international scandal, with dreadful wider implications for millions of LGBT+ Muslims around the world.
“I sat through some of the trial. The conduct of this case relied on lazy tropes about LGBT+ people that we might have thought we had put behind us decades ago.
“As a former justice minister, I was prepared to testify about the truly extraordinary sequence of events that has resulted in Imran being put through this nightmare start to his parliamentary career.”
What did he say in apology?
Mr Blunt has now apologised for his comments in defence of Khan, saying he is sorry for causing “significant upset”.
In a statement on Twitter, he said he was retracting his initial statement in which he described Khan’s conviction as a “dreadful miscarriage of justice”, and also offered his resignation as chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ Rights.
He said: “On reflection I have decided to retract my statement defending Imran Ahmad Khan. I am sorry that my defence of him has been a cause of significant upset and concern not least to victims of sexual offences. It was not my intention to do this.
“To be clear I do not condone any form of abuse and I strongly believe in the independence and integrity of the justice system.
“It is a particularly difficult time for LGBT+ rights across the world and my statement risks distracting the APPG for Global LGBT+ Rights from its important purpose. I have today offered the officers my resignation so a new Chair can be found to continue the work of the group with full force.”
How did others react?
Labour condemned Mr Blunt’s defence of Khan and members of a cross-party LGBT group that the Reigate MP chairs have quit in protest, with one urging him to resign from his role.
Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chairwoman and shadow equalities secretary, branded Mr Blunt’s comments “disgraceful” and called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Tory chairman Oliver Dowden to “take action” against the former prisons minister and “distance their party from his comments”.
Members of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ Rights, including Labour MP Chris Bryant and the SNP’s Stewart McDonald and Joanna Cherry, said they were quitting the cross-party body which Mr Blunt chairs, with Mr Bryant describing the remarks as “completely inappropriate”.
Urging Mr Blunt to quit as APPG chair, Mr McDonald tweeted: “Parliament needs a respected and robust LGBT group and Crispin can no longer provide that leadership. He should stand down.”
Ms Cherry tweeted that Mr Blunt’s statement was the “last straw” for her membership of the group and that she intended to resign on Tuesday.
Sir Peter Bottomley, the father of the House of Commons who also attended court on Monday, said the final jury verdict should be “respected”.
The veteran Tory MP said he chose to attend the trial “most days” as “no-one should be alone in court”.
He said: “It was not the verdict I anticipated. Unless overturned on appeal, the jury verdict following the summing up has to be respected.”
A Tory spokesman, when asked whether the party agreed with Mr Blunt’s view, reiterated that Khan had been expelled from Boris Johnson’s outfit. He said: “Our view is pretty clear”.
Khan’s legal team has vowed to appeal against the conviction, a move that could delay a potential by-election.