Diane Abbott has had the Labour Party whip suspended following remarks suggesting Irish, Jewish and Traveller people are not subject to racism “all their lives”.
Abbott made the claims in response to an article on the issue of racism in Britain today and has apologised “for any anguish caused”.
The chief whip has removed the whip from her pending an investigation, the party confirmed.
Abbott’s letter to the Observer newspaper was in response to an article headlined ‘Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated,’ by Tomiwa Owolade.
The author wrote that Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and Jewish people were most likely to say they have experienced “racist abuse”, while “40% of white Irish people reported experiencing some form of racist assault in their lives”.
But the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington claimed in response: “They undoubtedly experience prejudice.
“This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism.”
She added: “In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus.”
“In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”
Shortly after the letter was published, Abbott issued a statement retracting her comments.
She said on Twitter: “I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my written remarks and disassociate myself from them.
“The errors arose in an initial draft being sent. But there is no excuse and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.
“Racism takes many forms and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, travellers and many others.
“Once again, I would like to apologise publicly for the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said: ““The Labour Party completely condemns these comments which are deeply offensive and wrong.
“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Diane Abbott pending an investigation.”
It comes after leader Sir Keir Starmer recently blocked Jeremy Corbyn from standing as a Labour MP over comments in the wake of an anti-semitism row under his leadership.
Starmer pledged to “tear out this poison [antisemitism] by its root” after being elected leader, and has made strides to restore the party’s standing among Jewish MPs and communities.