British lawmaker accused of racism

2012-01-05 16:00

London - A prominent British lawmaker has been accused of racism after a tweet criticising "white people".

Conservative politicians said Labour's Diane Abbott should apologise after posting on Twitter: "White people love playing 'divide & rule.' We should not play their game."

The tweet was part of an online exchange about the aftermath of the sentencing of two white men for the murder of a black teenager. It was later deleted.

Conservative legislator Nadhim Zahawi said Abbott's comment was "outrageous" and she should resign.

Abbott became the first black woman elected to Parliament in 1987 and is Labour's health spokesperson.

She said on Thursday that her tweet referred to the "nature of 19th century European colonialism" and had been taken out of context.

She had added a "hashtag" - a way Twitter users highlight topics - which said "#tacticasoldascolonialism".

Her comment quickly sparked a storm, with her own party calling it "wrong" and lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition calling for her to apologise or resign.

One Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, said a "healthy society should not tolerate any form of racism".

In a statement on Thursday, Abbott 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."

Abbott had earlier appeared on television to insist that her tweet was taken out of context - but then took a call mid-interview which was reportedly from Labour leader Ed Miliband, ordering her to say sorry.

Read more on:    twitter  |  racism

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