Diane Abbott says sorry for race tweet

 

Labour frontbencher Diane Abbott apologised today after claiming "white people love playing 'divide & rule"'.

The shadow public health minister faced demands for her resignation over the remark, made on Twitter.

She was rebuked by the Labour Party, which said it was "wrong" to make such "sweeping generalisatons".

In a statement, issued by Labour, Ms Abbott apologised for "any offence caused".

She said: "I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused."

In an earlier interview with Sky News, she made no attempt to apologise and said that her comments had been interpreted "maliciously".

She claimed she had been referring to "19th century European colonialism", adding: "I think the Tweet was taken out of context and some people have interpreted it maliciously," she said.

Asked to elaborate, she broke off from the interview to take a telephone call.

Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi called for her resignation and insisted Labour leader Ed Miliband must sack her if she would not stand down.

"A healthy society should not tolerate any form of racism," he said, adding that Ms Abbott, the first black woman to enter the Commons, "of all people should lead by example".

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP was addressing a freelance journalist on Twitter yesterday when she wrote: "White people love playing 'divide & rule'. We should not play their game £tacticasoldascolonialism."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "We disagree with Diane's tweet. It is wrong to make sweeping generalisations about any race, creed, or culture. The Labour Party has always campaigned against such behaviour - and so has Diane Abbott."

Mr Miliband told Ms Abbott that the remark was unacceptable, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said.

"The contents of the tweet were clearly unacceptable and Diane has, of course, therefore unreservedly apologised for that," he told BBC News.

"I should say that the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has spoken to her this morning and made it very clear, in no uncertain terms, that the contents of the tweet were unacceptable and Diane agrees with that."

He said people would not "seriously think Diane is a racist".

"Diane has campaigned for equality, and campaigned against prejudice, over many years."

David Cameron - who famously said in 2009 that he did not use Twitter because too many tweets "might make a twat" - declined to comment in detail on the furore surrounding the Labour MP.

Asked about Ms Abbott during a visit to inspect construction work at Hereford's new enterprise zone, the Prime Minister joked: "You know my rule about politicians and tweeting - another good example."

PA

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