The former UK equality watchdog chief, Trevor Phillips’ has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia.

The Times newspaper reported the anti-racism campaigner is being investigated over past comments dating back years.

Mr Phillips, ex-chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said Labour was in danger of collapsing into a “brutish, authoritarian cult”.

Labour said it takes complaints about Islamophobia “extremely seriously”.

A spokeswoman added: “[The complaints] are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Mr Phillips was among 24 public figures who wrote to the Guardian last year declaring their refusal to vote for Labour because of its association with anti-Semitism.

He could be expelled from the party for alleged prejudice against Muslims.

Mr Phillips has been suspended pending investigation over remarks, including expressing concerns about Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern British towns, according to the Times.

It says the complaint also covers his comments about the failure of some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday and the sympathy shown by some in an opinion poll towards the “motives” of the Charlie Hebdo attackers.

The paper said many of his statements are years-old but that Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby suspended him as a matter of urgency to “protect the party’s reputation”.

Writing in the Times, Mr Phillips said it would be tragic if, at the very moment the country needed an effective opposition, the nation had to endure the spectacle of Labour collapsing into “a brutish authoritarian cult.”

He said he was a victim of Labour’s adoption of a definition of Islamophobia as a “kind of racism” hostile to “Muslimness”.

Mr Phillips added: “No one inside or outside the Labour Party has ever suggested that I have broken any rules.”

Mr Phillips was the founding chair of the EHRC, which is currently investigating anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, when it launched in 2006.

He has previously made documentaries about race and multiculturalism, and now chairs Index on Censorship – a group that campaigns for freedom of expression.

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