On Monday, Florence Eshalomi, who represents Vauxhall, asked if Patel understood the “anger and frustration felt by so many people” amid the Black Lives Matter movement and recognised “structural inequality, discrimination and racism in our country”.
Speaking in the Commons, Patel pointed to racist abuse she has received, saying she had been called a racial slur and characterised in a Guardian cartoon as a “fat cow with a ring through its nose”.
Nadia Whittome MP tweeted after the exchange that Patel’s response made her “feel sick” while Eshalomi said the government “just seriously don’t get it”.
During the Commons exchange, Eshalomi said: “Does the home secretary actually understand the anger and frustration felt by so many people? Does the home secretary recognise that this protest has been led by young people?
“Does the home secretary recognise that there is structural inequality, discrimination and racism in our country? Does the home secretary recognise that people want to see action from this government?
“My son turned three yesterday, I do not want to have to wait until he’s a teenager before we see changes in this country – will this government and the home secretary act now?
“Black lives matter and we need to see this government doing something about that.”
Patel rejected the claim that she does not understand racial inequality and said she was “really saddened that Ms Eshalomi has effectively said that this government doesn’t understand racial inequality”.
She added that she was “racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career”.
“(It must have been) a different home secretary recently characterised... in the Guardian newspaper as a fat cow with a ring through its nose – something that was not only racist but offensive, both culturally and religiously.”