Labour MP Diane Abbott has apologised for remarks in which she suggested Jewish people do not face racism, but instead face prejudice similar to “redheads”.
In a letter to the Observer in response to an article which had the headline “Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated,” Ms Abbott said she was responding to writer Tomiwa Owolade’s claims that “Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism'”.
“They undoubtedly experience prejudice,” Ms Abbott wrote.
“This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism.
“In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus.
“In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”
In response to Ms Abbott’s remarks, Energy Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter: “Once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hateful anti-semitism.
“@Keir_Starmer are you actually going to do anything?”
Comedian David Baddiel tweeted: “And in the middle of the 20th Century 6 million Jews were murdered after being categorised as an inferior race. Not sure that’s prejudice.”
Following the criticism, Ms Abbott issued an apology, saying she wished to “wholly and unreservedly” withdraw her remarks.
“The errors arose in an initial draft being sent,” she wrote. “But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.”