A leadership hopeful for one of Britain’s biggest unions has been reportedly suspended by Labour after suggesting Priti Patel was ‘disgusting’ and should be deported.
It has been learnt that Howard Beckett has apologised for his comment and said it was “never meant to be literal”.
Beckett, a Unite leadership candidate who sits on Labour’s ruling national executive, made the remarks about the home secretary following protests in Glasgow over detention of two men in a van, who were later released after demonstrators surrounded the vehicle on Thursday (13).
Both were Indians being held in a detention van and were able to walk out free with the help of a human rights lawyer after an eight-hour protest by their neighbours.
Sumit Sehdev, a chef, and Lakhvir Singh, a mechanic, both in their 30s, have reportedly been in the UK for 10 years. Six UK Immigration Enforcement officers, backed by Police Scotland, reportedly removed them from their home in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow on Thursday (13).
In reference to this incident, Beckett put out a tweet, which he has now deleted, said: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.”
Responding to this, a fellow Unite member, Gurinder Singh Josan, wrote: “Howard showing his true colours? I totally disagree on pretty much everything with Priti Patel but this is simply dog-whistle racism against a woman of colour. Delete this now!”
Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “This is vile. This should play no part in Labour – or in British politics.”
However, there were others who defended Beckett, saying his comments were aimed at the home secretary’s policies on the deportation of refugees and not her ethnic background.
“I’m very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim Refugees being deported on the morning of Eid Al Fitr. My earlier tweet, deleted after half an hour, was never intended to be literal. My intention was to emphasise that racist policies should be rejected & have no place in society,” Beckett later tweeted and adding “The wording was wrong, offensive & I apologise unreservedly to Priti Patel. No one should be deported.”