Angela Smith, one of the seven MPs who resigned from Labour on Monday in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party, has apologised for her description of non-white people in a TV interview.
Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, Smith said discrimination was “not just about colour”, and appeared to say BAME people have “funny” tint or tinge.
The Penistone and Stocksbridge MP was taking part in a panel discussion about how big a problem racism is in the UK.
“The recent history of the party I’ve just left suggest that it’s not just about being black or a funny tin... you know, from the BME community,” she said.
Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar who was appearing on the programme alongside Smith, interrupted to ask: “A funny what?”
Labour’s Rupa Huq MP said: “They claim their new Party is anti racist and modern yet in the same breath describe black, asian and minority ethnic people as having ‘a funny tinge’.
“This is, at best, the casual racism of the 70s that I thought we’d long left behind. But it will strike many as an appalling, racist comment. Is the Independent Group going to investigate?”
The reaction from political commentators on Twitter was also swift.
Smith later said she was “very sorry” and was “very upset” that she misspoke “so badly”.
Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Smith all dramatically quit Labour this morning and set themselves up as a grouping of independent MPs.
Corbyn said he was “disappointed” that the MPs had chosen to quit the party.
“Our opponents are the Tories, not each other, and it’s disappointing that a small group of MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945,” the Labour leader said in an email to party members on Monday afternoon.
The MPs who have split from Labour are facing demands from critics to trigger immediate by-elections in their seats and seek re-election on their own merit.