POLITICS
13/12/2013 17:27 GMT | Updated 13/12/2013 17:50 GMT

Labour MP Jack Dromey, Shadow Police Minister, Calls A Postal Worker 'Pikey' On Twitter

Police have been asked to investigate a senior Labour MP after he caused a storm on Twitter by referring to a postal worker as "the Pikey" in a message on the website.

Jack Dromey, the shadow police minister, quickly posted another message to say he was referring to the Dad's Army character Frank Pike. But Tory MP David Morris has written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe claiming it was an "incident that may constitute incitement to racial hatred" and asking him to launch an inquiry.

Dromey, whose wife is deputy party leader Harriet Harman, was accused of racism over his use of the word Pikey, which is a derogatory term for a gypsy or traveller. The MP for Birmingham Erdington posted a picture of himself and Gareth Martin who he described on Twitter as "the Pikey from the Erdington Royal Mail Sorting Office", adding that he was "a great guy".

Twitter user @hammywheel responded by saying: "Disgraceful incitement to racial hatred there? 'Pikey' is a horrid thing to call anyone."

In a reference to possible police action @hammywheel added: "Expect a knock on your door from Plod." Dromey quickly attempted to explain his comment, posting another tweet explaining the reference to the much-loved sitcom: "Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring. This morning's meeting was with Gareth, a Postie nicknamed after Corporal Pike from Dad's Army."

The MP inadvertently promoted Private Pike, who was portrayed on screen by Ian Lavender in the long-running series. Labour denied reports the MP had an "official warning or rebuke" about the incident and the party appeared satisfied with Dromey's explanation. A senior source said: "I think Jack's follow-up says what needs to be said."

But in his letter to the head of the Met, Morris claimed he had received a number of complaints about the tweet from members of the traveller community in his Morecambe and Lunesdale seat. Morris wrote: "As I am sure that you are aware, the word 'pikey' is a deeply offensive word, and is a racially charged term due to its association with Irish travellers and Roma gypsies.

"I have received a number of complaints from members of the travelling community in my constituency, and am writing on their behalf. Crown Prosecution Service guidance as you know states that an 'offence is committed when the accused person says or does something which is threatening, abusive or insulting and, by doing so, either intends to stir up racial hatred, or makes it likely that racial hatred will be stirred up'.

"Mr Dromey is not only a high profile politician, but is also Shadow Minister for Policing. His tweets reach a wide audience, and he is in a position of some authority. I would be very grateful if you could investigate this incident as a matter of urgency."