London Assembly: Racism claims `offensive and stupid'

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The Independent Online
DOWNING STREET yesterday attacked as "offensive and stupid" reported remarks by the singer Patti Boulaye that the killers of Stephen Lawrence were either Labour voters or National Front supporters.

Ms Boulaye, who hopes to stand as a Tory candidate for the new London assembly next year, made her comments in an interview that has caused deep embarrassment in Conservative Central Office.

The former winner of ITV's New Faces show also prompted anger with her claim that 80 per cent of Labour supporters were racist, compared to 20 per cent of Conservatives. The 44-year-old singer and actress was paraded two weeks ago as the Tories' newest recruit and was pictured with William Hague in a bid to win key ethnic minority votes in the Greater London Authority elections in May 2000.

However, the PR coup backfired yesterday when she made a series of outlandish comments in The Express newspaper, including the claim that prejudice is what makes black footballers good players and that a good economy "stops black people feeling so black".

Ms Boulaye immediately claimed that she had been misquoted in the article, but a verbatim transcript of the taped interview confirms the accuracy of her reported quotes.

"I would say 80 per cent of Labour people I have met have been prejudiced, as opposed to 20 per cent of Conservatives ... Most of the Labour people I have met have been prejudiced," the transcript reads.

"I mean those boys accused of killing Stephen Lawrence, I can assure you that they voted if not National Front, it's either National Front or Labour."

Tony Blair's official spokesman seized on the remarks at the daily Number 10 briefing of lobby journalists, saying that it was "just another embarrassment for William Hague".

"If she said that, those views are offensive and stupid. Most people, let alone Labour Party supporters, would find it offensive," the spokesman added.

Officially, Conservative Central Office stood by Ms Boulaye yesterday, backing her claim that she had been misquoted.

Privately, Tory sources pointed out that Ms Boulaye had not yet been adopted as an official party candidate and would not be likely to until November, when the selection process was completed.