Labour under pressure over ‘weak’ response to racial slurs

Hugh Gaffney has apologised for the comments. Picture: John Devlin
Hugh Gaffney has apologised for the comments. Picture: John Devlin
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Scottish Labour has come under renewed pressure over its response to racist and homophobic comments by one of its MPs, with an SNP minister claiming it was “slap in the face for every single ethnic minority [person] in the country”.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said Hugh Gaffney, the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP who described a “chinky” takeaway meal and used the term “bent” during a Burns Night address, should “seriously consider his position”.

Mr Gaffney has apologised for the comments.

However, it emerged that his local party considered a motion condemning MSP Anas Sarwar after he went public with racist language allegedly used against him by a Labour councillor.

READ MORE: Labour MP Hugh Gaffney to attend ‘diversity training’ after Burns Night rant
The Sunday Post reported that after the allegations emerged against Mr Gaffney, the Uddingston and Belshill Constituency Labour Party (CLP) put forward a motion on Thursday censuring Mr Sarwar for revealing that South Lanarkshire Council group leader Davie McLachlan had told him Labour members wouldn’t vote for a “brown, Muslim Paki” as leader.

Mr McLachlan, who denies the allegation, has been suspended from the Labour party.

Uddingston and Bellshill CLP were “talked down” from voting through what would have been an embarrassing censure by MSP Mark Griffin, it is claimed.

The motion was blamed on “ideologically obsessed” supporters of Mr Leonard and UK party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Sunday Post reported.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Labour has a zero tolerance approach to racism. We want to tackle all forms of discrimination. No one should be criticised for speaking against intolerance.”

On the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr Yousaf said Labour parliamentarians had approached him to voice their disquiet at Mr Leonards response to allegations of racism.

He said he was “frustrated” that neither the Scottish Labour leader nor Mr Gaffney had responded to a letter sent last week calling for action, and said a requirement for the MP to undergo diversity training was “barely a tickle on the wrist”.

“There are a number of questions that clearly have to be answered,” Mr Yousaf said.

“Has Hugh ever received equalities and diversity training before, as many, many of his former colleagues have contacted me privately to say he would have done?

“If that is the case, does this not just make a further mockery of Richard Leonard’s weak action that he has taken in regards to these racial slurs that Hugh Gaffney has made.”

The SNP minister added: “There are many people that have contacted me, whether they are from ethnic minority [backgrounds] or not, who have been utterly dismayed.

“Labour members themselves, MSPs are coming up to me in the chamber at parliament to say they are utterly appalled at their party's stance on this.

“The Labour Party have traditionally been a party that has taken a very strong stance against racism has shown itself to be weak in the face of racial slurs - a week after one of their own colleagues, Anas Sarwar came forward to tackle racism within his own party in a very brave manner indeed.”

Mr Yousaf called on Mr Gaffney to “seriously consider his position”, saying: “If an MP used any other racial slur, I don’t think we would say that person would be fit to hold office.”

Meanwhile, it emerged that Mr Gaffney went on a taxpayer-funded fact finding trip to China two months before his comments.

As part of the Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group on China, Mr Gaffney visited Guangdong and Guangxi in November.

The latest damaging revelations come on the day Mr Leonard unveiled an eight-point plan to tackle intolerance and inequality within Labour, with Mr Sarwar’s support.

READ MORE: Racism row deepens as Anas Sarwar snubs Richard Leonard