Most BME MPs have experienced racism in parliament, study finds

Peter Walker Political correspondent
Photograph: Robert Perry/Getty Images

Almost two-thirds of black and minority ethnic (BME) MPs say they have experienced some form of racism while working in parliament, while half say they have faced it from fellow MPs, according to a study carried out by ITV.

The findings were based on the anonymous responses of 37 of the 65 BME MPs in the current parliament. Of those who answered, 62% said they faced “racism or racial profiling” while on the parliamentary estate, with 51% saying they had experienced this from other MPs.

Of the MPs, 92% said they believed their ethnicity made it harder for them to enter parliament, while 83% said it had made their job more difficult. The survey found 83% had experienced racism from the public.

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Of the respondents – which include MPs from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – several told ITV News of what they had experienced in their careers. The study had MPs discuss particular experiences.

Dawn Butler, who is standing to be Labour’s deputy leader, said she had once been removed from a room in parliament by police. “A police officer came to physically escort me out of the member’s tea room even though he was told I was a member of parliament,” the Brent Central MP said, adding that the officer later sent her a written apology.

Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, told ITV that when she was pregnant a colleague had expressed surprise to be told Siddiq was having a daughter, as she thought people from Asian backgrounds were likely to abort girls.

Siddiq said: “Speaking to a colleague of a 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 …’ And I looked at her and I couldn’t believe what she was saying.”

Siddiq added that when she was first running for parliament someone advised her to use her husband’s surname, because “people wouldn’t vote for ‘Tulip Siddiq’”.

Comments from MPs who asked to remain anonymous included one who said they had been spat at in the street because of their religion. Other said they had experienced racist comments while campaigning, as well as racist letters and emails.

Afzal Khan, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, said: “You get loads of tweets saying: ‘You’re drumming on about Muslims. There is a simple solution; go back to Pakistan.’”