BAME MPs accuse Priti Patel of gaslighting them in racism debate

11 June 2020, 19:01

Priti Patel has been accused of "gaslighting" MPs
Priti Patel has been accused of "gaslighting" MPs. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The Home Secretary has clashed with a group of BAME Labour MPs who claim she "gaslighted" them on the "very real racism" faced by black communities in the UK.

Priti Patel was accused of using her Indian heritage to cast doubt on racism experienced by black people by the group of 33 MPs who wrote to her.

But Ms Patel said she "will not be silenced" by those who "continue to dismiss the contributions of those who don't conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave."

The exchange on Thursday came after the Home Secretary told of the racism she has herself suffered and said she would "not take lectures" on prejudice in the House of Commons earlier in the week.

But she was accused of having sought to "silence" the black Labour MP Florence Eshalomi, as the Labour MP called for action from the Government to tackle discrimination.

Shadow minister Naz Shah and other Labour MPs, including Ms Eshalomi, Diane Abbott, Tan Dhesi and Rosena Allin-Khan, to question Ms Patel's attitude towards Black Lives Matter protests.

"We write to you as black, Asian and ethnic minority Labour MPs to highlight our dismay at the way you used your heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by black people and communities across the UK," they said.

"Our shared experiences allow us to feel the pain that communities feel, when they face racism, they allow us to show solidarity towards a common cause; they do not allow us to define, silence or impede on the feelings that other minority groups may face.

"Being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism.

"In conclusion, we ask you to reflect on your words and to consider the impact it had towards the black communities in the UK trying to highlight their voices against racism."

Gaslighting refers to the act of psychologically manipulating someone to doubt their own experiences.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed Ms Patel, and hit out at the "identity politics" of her Labour critics
Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed Ms Patel, and hit out at the "identity politics" of her Labour critics. Picture: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed Ms Patel, and hit out at the "identity politics" of her Labour critics at the Downing Street coronavirus briefing.

He said he was proud to serve alongside ministers including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma and "all the rest" of the BAME ministers.

"Of course Priti Patel was not wrong to talk of her personal experiences of racism," he added.

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said it was "shameful" for Labour "to bully using someone's race", adding: "In an attempt to score party political points, they legitimise using race as a weapon to attack others."

Former chancellor Sajid Javid said the letter was "utterly misguided and irresponsible".

"Imagine listening to an ethnic-minority woman's history of suffering racist abuse - and then deciding that you'd rather condemn the victim than her abusers," he added.

But shadow minister Chi Onwurah, who also signed the letter, denied they were trying to silence Ms Patel, and added: "We all need to give each other space to speak out to our experiences, without dismissing them."