Priti Patel has hit back at claims the government doesn’t understand racial inequality, telling MPs: “It must have been a very different home secretary who as a child was frequently called a P**i in the playground.”
On Monday, during a discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement, Labour MP Florence Eshalomi said the government must do more to show that Black lives matter in the UK.
“Does the home secretary actually understand the anger and frustration felt by so many people?” Eshalomi asked Patel. “Does the home secretary recognise that this protest has been led by young people?
“Does the home secretary recognise that there is structural inequality, discrimination and racism in our country? Does the home secretary recognise that people want to see action from this government?”
But Patel said she was “really saddened” by Eshalomi’s suggestion government ministers didn’t understand racial inequality.
“Well, on that basis, it must have been a very different home secretary who as a child was frequently called a Paki in the playground – a very different home secretary who was racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career,” Patel told parliament.
“A different home secretary recently characterised – if, madame deputy speaker, I can say so – in the Guardian newspaper as a fat cow with a ring through its nose, something that was not only racist but offensive, both culturally and religiously.”
The cabinet minister said she would not take lectures from the opposition “when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance for social justice”.
“I have already said repeatedly there is no place for racism in our country or in society, and sadly too many people are too willing, too casual to dismiss the contributions of those who don’t necessarily conform to pre-conceived views or ideologies about how ethnic minorities should behave or think,” Patel said.
“This, in my view, is racist in itself.”
But Labour’s Nadia Whittome said she felt sick after watching the exchange, accusing Patel on Twitter of using “her identity as an Asian person to silence @FloEshalomi as a black person”.