Rupa Huq, the Labour MP, has been suspended from the party after sparking outrage by saying that Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, is “superficially black”.
Sir Keir Starmer withdrew the whip from the backbencher over her “racist” remarks about the Chancellor at a conference fringe event.
Ms Huq, the MP for Ealing Central and Acton said she had apologised to Mr Kwarteng, adding: “I have today contacted Kwasi Kwarteng to offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies for the comments I made. My comments were ill-judged, and I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone affected.”
In her remarks to delegates, she cited Mr Kwarteng’s Conservative views and the fact that he went to “very expensive” private schools.
“Superficially, he is a black man. He went to Eton, I think, he went to a very expensive prep school, all the way through, the top schools in the country,” she said in a leaked recording of her speech published on the Guido Fawkes website. “If you hear him on the Today programme, you wouldn’t know he’s black.”
‘Labour Party has to be really careful’
She made the remarks at a fringe event entitled What’s next for Labour on race? on Monday morning. They reportedly prompted a response from Sunder Katwala, the director of the British Future think tank, who was chairing the conversation.
Mr Katwala is said to have replied that Mr Kwarteng’s views “don’t make him not black” adding: “I think the Labour Party has to be really careful”.
Jake Berry, the Tory Party chairman, wrote to Sir Keir urging him to withdraw the whip from Ms Huq over the “appalling comments”.
Mr Berry claimed she had said that “superficially, they’ve had four brown chancellors” and talked of “when you have a little brown guy” in the Treasury in reference to Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi.
“I trust you will join me in unequivocally condemning these comments as nothing less than racist and that the Labour whip will be withdrawn from Rupa Huq as a consequence,” Mr Berry wrote to Sir Keir.
‘Massive misunderstanding, wilfully’
Ms Huq told The Guardian that “I stand by” the comments, which she said were made while she was praising the recent ethnic diversity of chancellors.
She said that “obviously I know you can be brown and be a Tory – I’m not that stupid”, calling the criticism a “massive misunderstanding, wilfully” of her remarks.
The backbencher added that an audience member challenged her on the comments and she replied that a person’s pigmentation doesn’t make them progressive.
Tory MPs were left seething and joined the calls for Sir Keir to act. Richard Holden, the MP for North West Durham, said: “Conservative chairman Jake Berry is 100 per cent right to call out the vile racism in Labour.
“Good to see Jake leading from the front as our chairman and quickly calling it out and standing up for Conservative MPs facing it.”
Chris Green, the MP for Bolton West, said: “Labour are so immersed in US culture wars that they can’t help themselves. Useful to know what some of their MPs really think.”
The controversy broke less than an hour before Sir Keir was due to give his keynote speech at Labour’s conference in Liverpool.