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MP forced to step down from charity after allegedly saying Asians "all look the same"

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Charity takes swift action

A Tory MP has been ditched as a commander of St John's Ambulance after mixing up two Asian cabinet ministers and allegedly saying "they all look the same to me."

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, was told to step back in his at St John Ambulance (SJA) after the reported gaffe when he introduced the then vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, as the health secretary at a parliamentary reception last month. Sajid Javid is the health secretary.

The incident happened at an event held to honour volunteers who helped the NHS with the vaccine programme during the spring and summer. Gray, 66, was said to have mixed up the two ministers in the room.

A witness at the event said when Gray’s error was pointed out to him, he told the audience: “They all look the same to me.” The witness added that afterwards, Zahawi pulled Gray to one side for a private conversation.

A spokesperson for the SJA said it “does not tolerate racism in any way, shape or form” and confirmed: “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.”

Gray became a commander of the Order of St John in September 2020. Two days before the event, the MP for North Wiltshire congratulated SJA volunteers for doing a “huge job in carrying out the vaccinations and in training and coordinating volunteers”.

Responding to his praise in the Commons chamber, Zahawi echoed the sentiment, and said: “They really rose to the challenge when we contacted them and said that we needed them.”