The Labour MP Emma Dent Coad has apologised for referring to a Conservative London assembly member as a “token ghetto boy” in a blogpost written before she was elected, after two Tory MPs called for the whip to be removed.
Shaun Bailey, who was then Hammersmith’s Conservative parliamentary candidate, said the MP had written “racist, hate-filled remarks”.
After the comments were unearthed by the Guido Fawkes blog, James Cleverly and Kemi Badenoch wrote an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn, calling on the Labour leader to suspend the whip from the Kensington MP and investigate the comments.
In a piece on her blog from 2010, Dent Coad said Bailey had “stigmatised” the area he was born in by referring to it as a “ghetto”.
“Who can say where this man will ever fit in, however hard he tries? One day he is the ‘token ghetto boy’ standing behind D Cameron, the next ‘looking interested’ beside G Osborne,” she wrote. “Ever felt used?”
The MP said she had been repeating descriptions made by others, something Bailey later denied, and her comments had been taken “the wrong way”.
“If he was offended by me repeating what other people have said then I do apologise,” she told BBC Radio London. “Clearly, I shouldn’t have repeated it. People have taken it the wrong way.”
Bailey denied saying the words and said he would not have used language such as ghetto to describe where he grew up. He called the apology cowardly and said he had written to Corbyn asking him to take disciplinary action against the MP.
“I’m extremely disappointed and further saddened by the cowardly response given by Emma Dent Coad,” he said in a statement. “Instead of facing this issue, she has attempted to blur and camouflage the views she expressed in her blog by falsely dressing them up as someone else’s words.
“Despite her claims, she can provide no evidence that I or anyone else used the horrendous terms she advocated. I find it appalling that someone as privileged as Ms Dent Coad would dare question the legitimacy of my background. I am now urging Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party to take the strongest disciplinary action possible.”
In a Twitter thread, Badenoch said she was concerned about the implications of Dent Coad’s comments, calling them “profoundly distressing, and a toxic reminder of the struggle black people face daily in defeating stereotypes”.
“I’m a black Conservative. I don’t think every offensive comment is racism, but when I see real prejudice I have to call it out,” she wrote. Badenoch said the comments showed “an assumption that there’s only one way to be black, and anyone who doesn’t conform is a ‘coconut’, an ‘Uncle Tom’ or a race traitor”.
The MP for Saffron Waldon said she had heard one black boy at a school accusing his classmate of “acting white” because he liked reading. “It is a poisonous belief and destroys the lives of so many children,” she tweeted. “Where do such attitudes come from? From ‘community leaders’ like Ms Dent-Coad, who want to tell us what to think and how to behave.
“They haven’t given us permission to leave our ghettoes, be Conservative or make friends with posh white people. This was Shaun’s crime. This attitude traps many black children within imaginary boundaries they believe they aren’t allowed to cross.”