A Tory MP has blamed Muslim and BAME communities for the coronavirus lockdown in the North of England.
Craig Whittaker told LBC radio that communities in his constituency were seeing spikes in Covid cases which prompted Matt Hancock to impose a lockdown curfew on them and up to 4 million people across Greater Manchester and parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire on Thursday night.
The MP for Calder Valley suggested to host Ian Payne that a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the virus by Muslim and BAME members of his constituency were to blame.
‘Is this something to do with Eid and the Muslim community?’ Payne asked.
Whittaker said it was not, before launching into his explanation for the second surge: ‘What I have seen in my constituency is that there are sections of the community that are not taking the pandemic seriously.’
Payne clarified that he was talking about the Muslim community when Whittaker responded: ‘Of course.
‘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.’
The radio host warned that the remarks could be seen as inflammatory but Whittaker was unphased, saying he was ‘absolutely’ ready for any backlash.
He said: ‘I’ve been challenging our local leaders for three weeks, asking what we are doing to target these areas to let people know that this is a very serious problem. Until people take it seriously, we’re not going to get rid of this pandemic.’
He added: ‘We have areas of high multiple occupancy – when you have multiple families living in one household. It doesn’t specifically have to be in the Asian community, but that is the largest proportion.
‘Look at the areas. You’ve got Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. Bradford and Kirklees have two of the largest populations in West Yorkshire.’
When asked again to clarify who the MP was referring to, he responded: ‘[The] immigrant and Asian population.’
Former Tory and Change UK MP Anna Soubry branded the comments as ‘offensive, inaccurate twaddle’.
‘It’s nothing to do with race & everything to do with Boris Johnson’s mate who broke the #COVID19 rules & instead of sacking him Johnson, his ministers & #Conservative MPs backed #DominicCummings to the hilt,’ she posted on Twitter.