A leading official in Unite the union has been suspended from the Labour Party after tweeting that Priti Patel should be “deported” for her treatment of refugees, HuffPost UK understands.
Howard Beckett has apologised for saying the home secretary is “disgusting” in a now deleted tweet.
Patel was born in London to Indian parents who fled to the UK from Uganda just before Idi Amin’s decision to deport all Asians.
Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary, is running to replace Len McCluskey as general secretary, and sits on the Labour Party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC). A party spokesperson said “appropriate action will be taken” over Beckett’s comment.
The full tweet said: ”Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.”
Looks like he's deleted it, but here's the screenshot. pic.twitter.com/HmuQSqKMN9
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) May 13, 2021
Beckett initially refused to back down, arguing that his tweet was "about society being able to do without anyone who promotes racism".
However, he eventually removed, writing: "I'm very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim refugees being deported on the morning of Eid Al Fitr."
I’m very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim Refugees being deported on the morning of Eid Al Fitr.
— Howard Beckett (@BeckettUnite) May 13, 2021
Labour MP Navendu Mishra said: “Racism is unacceptable under any circumstances.
“Sadly, we have a toxic Conservative government with a hostile agenda against people of colour.
“We don’t beat racism by being racist towards people we disagree with. I am proud of my heritage so should everyone.”
Left-wing campaigner and journalists Owen Jones said: “This is a truly disgraceful tweet. Yes, Priti Patel is a migrant and refugee bashing reactionary.
“Anyone calling for a person of colour to be deported - regardless of their political record - doesn’t understand racism, at best, and needs a lot of education, to say the least.
“Everyone on the left should be backing Steve Turner to be the next general secretary of Unite. He’s the standout candidate – rooted in working class struggle, a fighter for socialism, committed to anti racism.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes these allegations extremely seriously and appropriate action will be taken.”
Beckett’s comments were seemingly prompted by mass protests that took place over the detention of men in Glasgow.
Police Scotland released the two Indian nationals detained by Border Force officials in the city after people surrounded their van and prevented it from leaving on Thursday.
Demonstrators in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, had blocked the immigration enforcement van for hours, with one lying underneath the vehicle.
Around 200 protesters were at the scene, with chants of “Leave our neighbours, let them go” and “Cops go home” being heard as a ring of police stood around the van. It has been reported neither of the men is Muslim.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.