A Tory MP who accused BAME and Muslim communities of spreading coronavirus in his constituency has sparked an online battle on Twitter.
Craig Whittaker, who represents Calder Valley, a constituency in the North of England, suggested ethnic communities in his community were to blame for the rising number of infections which prompted health secretary Matt Hancock to announce new lockdown restrictions on Thursday night.
‘If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases, the vast majority – but not by any stretch of the imagination all areas – it is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough,’ he told Ian Payne on LBC radio.
Whittaker was warned his remarks would be seen by many as inflammatory towards ethnic minorities, but he said he was ‘absolutely’ ready for any public backlash.
But politicians and social commentators have been scathing about the remarks.
‘They’re getting their statements from Trump. First it was herd-do-nothing, then it was the magic app, then it was #BLM’s fault, then it was the care homes’s fault, now its BAME,’ said one.
Labour MP Jess Phillips questioned the evidence behind MP’s remarks: ‘It is a common tactic of those with power to find an ‘other’ to blame, it’s despicable and cowardly and frankly dangerous.’
Former Tory and Change UK MP Anna Soubry branded the comments as ‘offensive, inaccurate twaddle’.
‘It’s nothing to do with race and everything to do with Boris Johnson’s mate who broke the #COVID19 rules and instead of sacking him Johnson, his ministers and Conservative MPs backed Dominic Cummings to the hilt,’ she posted.
‘This is appalling & truly nasty on Eid day from Conservative MP Craig Whittaker. Let’s not pretend this is anything other than race baiting & trying to #blametheMuslims,’ said Miqdaad Versi, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council.
British journalist Sunny Hundal pointed out: ‘Despicable for a Conservative MP to blame minority communities when we’re more likely to be: – on front lines fighting against this virus,- in key roles keeping the country moving, – affected by the virus.
‘Many regions with upwards trends in infections have low % of minorities too.’
@Pilau wrote: ‘One of the world leaders in mishandling the pandemic, the Conservatives have now decided to blame *checks notes* black people.’
Others made humour of the situation. Kish said: ‘LOL show us the pictures of the beaches again. Let’s see how many BAME bruddas and sistas were there.’
Shafik Mandhai joked: ‘Very important: Asians should only gather in Covid-Immune Zones, such as pubs and Nandos.’
Colin summed up people’s frustration in three words: ‘Wow dude, wow.’
But many took aim at the radio station for hyping up the remarks. David Absalom wrote: ‘What really pisses me off is not @CWhittaker_MP’s evidence-free racism, but @LBC amplifying his remarks rather than just quietly crossing him off their guest list.’
Jonathan Liew added: ‘Note that at no point does the host challenge this extremely racist statement, test it, ask for evidence. Instead – giddy with delight – he just prompts the guest to keep repeating it.’