Diane Abbott Apologises For Saying Jewish People Do Not Experience Racism

Update:Diane Abbott later lost the Labour Party whip for the comments.

Diane Abbott has apologised “unreservedly” after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people have never been “subject to racism”.

In a letter to The Observer on Sunday, the veteran Labour MP responded to an article by Tomiwa Owolade titled: “Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated”.

Abbott said: “Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism’

“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. 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.”

The comments were branded “appalling, offensive and ignorant” by Karen Pollock, the chief executive of Holocaust Educational Trust.

Grant Shapps, the energy secretary, said: “Once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hatful anti-Semitism.”

Jon Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said Abbott’s comments “sounded utterly offensive”.

Following the backlash, Abbott tweeted an apology for the letter. “I am writing regarding my letter that was recently published in the Observer,” she said.

“I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my 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 likely to apologise publicly for the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them.”

Abbott has been the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in London since 1987.

A close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, she served as shadow home secretary during his time as Labour leader.

Corbyn has been formally blocked from standing as a Labour candidate at the next election after claiming anti-Semitism in the party while he was leader had been “overstated” by his political opponents.