Majority of BAME MPs have experienced racism at Westminster – report

A majority of MPs from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have experienced racism at Westminster, according to an investigation.

ITV News sent a survey to all 65 BAME MPs, with 62% of 37 respondents indicating that they had faced racism or racial profiling whilst on the Parliamentary estate, with just over half (51%) of respondents saying they had experienced racism or racial profiling from fellow Members of Parliament.

The investigation by the broadcaster, to be shown on ITV this evening, also found that 92% of respondents said their ethnicity had made it more difficult for them to become MPs and 83% said it had made their work as an MP more difficult.

Dawn Butler
Dawn Butler

A majority (81%) of respondents – consisting of MPs from across the political spectrum – also said that they had experienced racism from members of the public.

Dawn Butler, who is currently standing to be Labour’s deputy leader, told ITV that she was once escorted out of Parliament’s members’ tea room by police.

Ms Butler said: “A police officer came to physically escort me out of the members’ tea room even though he was told I was a Member of Parliament. He later sent me a written apology.”

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq described telling a colleague that she was pregnant and being met by surprise that she was having a girl, as the individual involved believed that Asian people were more likely to abort baby girls.

Ms Siddiq said: “Speaking to a colleague of mine, she looked at me in astonishment and said, ‘You know you’re having a girl because normally they don’t tell people of Asian origin they’re having a girl because you know, then Asian people decide…’ I looked at her and I couldn’t believe what she was saying.”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who has a Palestinian background, said that the abusive comments are “hurtful and horrible”.

“Whenever I mention anything to do with my background or ethnicity that comes back and you immediately get that torrent of people who want to tear you down,” said Ms Moran.

“The comments about going home come to me a lot. It is really hurtful and horrible. You learn to wear an armoured jacket so you don’t listen to it. I’ve got as much right to be here as anyone else.”

Labour’s Afzal Khan also highlighted the abuse that he receives on social media platforms.

He said: “You get loads of tweets saying, ‘You’re drumming on about Muslims. There is a simple solution, go back to Pakistan…’ There is a licence now to challenge people’s right to be here. For over 50-plus years I’ve been here, this is my country, everything I have, everything I want to give back is to this country.”

Another MP, who chose to speak anonymously, said that they had been spat at on the street due to their religious beliefs.

Responding to the report by ITV News, a spokesman for the House of Commons said: “It is unacceptable that some MPs have experienced racism, and we are particularly concerned to hear of instances occurring on the Parliamentary estate.

“We are committed to taking any necessary steps to ensure this does not happen in future.”