Labour’s Sarah Champion has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet after writing an article claiming “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.”
The Shadow Women and Equalities Minister made the comments in The Sun last Friday, as part of an article arguing “the race of these abusers” was being ignored in discussions around how to tackle child sexual exploitation.
Her comments provoked a backlash, with fellow Labour MP Naz Shah calling for an end to “incendiary headlines which demonise whole communities.”
Champion initially claimed the tabloid had edited the article, but in a statement announced her resignation appeared to confirm she was responsible for the words.
Champion said: “I apologise for the offence caused by the extremely poor choice of words in The Sun article on Friday. I am concerned that my continued position in the Shadow Cabinet would distract from the crucial issues around child protection which I have campaigned on my entire political career. It is therefore with regret that I tender my resignation as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I have accepted Sarah Champion’s resignation and thank her for her work in the Shadow Cabinet. I look forward to working together in future.”
The article opened with the words: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls. There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?”
As the backlash against article grew, Champion claimed the opening paragraph had been edited by The Sun, and “stripped of any nuance about the complex issue of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency”.
She added: “The article should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did.”
The Guido Fawkes blog subsequently published an email sent from her personal assistant to The Sun after the article was printed, which raised no concerns over the content or phrasing at all.
The email read: “She is absolutely thrilled with it – just gone to get some hard copies. However, she is mortified that you’ve used such an ancient picture of her – it is about five years old! I sent some newer ones last summer to the picture desk and am attaching them again here. Please can you send them on to the relevant person. Thanks, x”
A spokesperson for The Sun told The Guardian: “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and it ‘looked great’.
“Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new pictures for further use.”
Champion was the first of the Labour frontbenchers to return to Corbyn’s top team after the mass resignations failed to remove him as leader last summer.
She has been a high-profile campaigner against child sexual exploitation, and in 2014 worked with Barnardo’s to produce a report investigating the effectiveness of the law in keeping youngsters safe.