Neil Coyle: Labour MP has whip suspended over claims of racist comments

‘Labour expects the highest standards of behaviour from all our MPs and we take allegations of this sort very seriously,’ party says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
,Liam James
Friday 11 February 2022 18:44
Comments
<p>Coyle is said to have insulted a British-Chinese reporter in the House of Commons </p>

Coyle is said to have insulted a British-Chinese reporter in the House of Commons

Labour MP Neil Coyle has had the whip suspended following allegations he made racist comments to a journalist on the Parliamentary estate.

It comes after the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark was reportedly banned from bars inside the estate after an alleged incident in which he made a Sinophobic remark about the appearance of Business Insider political reporter, Henry Dyer.

“The Labour Party expects the highest standards of behaviour from all our MPs and we take allegations of this sort very seriously,” a party spokesperson told The Independent.

“Accordingly, the chief whip has now suspended the Labour whip from Neil Coyle pending an investigation.”

On Thursday evening, Mr Dyer said the pair had been discussing Barry Gardiner, a Labour MP who received funds from a suspected Chinese spy, when Mr Coyle said his colleague had been “paid by Fu Manchu” – a cartoon villain that draws on traditional Chinese stereotypes.

The journalist said that he suggested the reference to a “Chinese trope” was not appropriate and noted that he was British-Chinese.

He said the MP told him his heritage was apparent “from how you look like you've been giving renminbi to Barry Gardiner”.

As he left the bar that night, Mr Dyer said he wanted to defuse the tension with Mr Coyle, so waved him goodbye. He said the MP responded by sticking two fingers up at him. The incident is said to have taken place on Tuesday 1 February, Chinese New Year.

The remarks left Mr Dyer feeling “uncomfortable” and he said that he reported the incident to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Mr Dyer said: “The speaker and his staff took immediate action ... to suspend Coyle from the bars on the parliamentary estate pending an investigation by the Labour whips’ office into the incidents on Monday and Tuesday evening.”

Welcoming Labour’s decision to suspend the whip, Nick Lowles, CEO of antiracism campaign group, HOPE not hate, said: “We stand in solidarity with Henry Dyer.

“Given the rise in discrimination and hate that so many people of East Asian heritage have experienced during the pandemic, it is incredibly disturbing that this kind of sentiment has reached the corridors of power in Westminster. We cannot allow racism of any kind to be normalised within the heart of our democracy.”

In a statement following the withdrawal of the Labour whip, Mr Coyle said: “I’m very sorry for my insensitive comments, have apologised to everyone involved and will be co-operating fully with the investigation.”

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