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A TORY MP was accused of “disgraceful and overt racism” today for his claim that that the “vast majority” of those ignoring lockdown restrictions in his area are from BAME communities.
The comments from Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker came as the government unleashed chaos and confusion in northern England — giving four million people just a few hours’ notice that they must return to lockdown.
Mr Whittaker, whose West Yorkshire constituency is involved in the new lockdown, told LBC radio: “What I have seen in my constituency is that there are sections of the community that are not taking the pandemic seriously.”
Asked if he was talking about the Muslim community, he 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.
“Look at the areas. You’ve got Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. Bradford and Kirklees have two of the largest populations in West Yorkshire.”
When asked if he was referring to the immigrant population, he said: “Immigrant and Asian population.”
Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister, Marsha de Cordova, tweeted: “Disgraceful and overt racism from this Tory MP blaming black, Asian and minority-ethnic people, the very people whose lives and livelihoods have been the worst hit by Covid-19.
“Boris Johnson must condemn this comment and take action.”
Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of Stand Up to Racism, said: “Blaming BAME communities for the government’s disastrous policies is a new low.”
He added: “A generation which survived World War II has been slaughtered in care homes because of government policy.
“The government does not care about working-class lives, black and white.”
PM Boris Johnson was forced to give an emergency press conference today to clarify the new measures.
People in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire were told that it was safe to go back to work — but too dangerous to go for a drink with friends indoors.
Mr Johnson said that workplaces were being made safe thanks to caring bosses — but that residents must not visit family or friends’ homes or gardens.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health and social-care secretary, said that having the highest excess death rate in Europe was “a clear reminder that being slow to act has devastating consequences.
“But the way in which the government has made the announcement has caused widespread confusion, anxiety and upset.”
The new restrictions in northern England, which were announced late on Thursday, hit Muslim communities particularly hard. Hours later, they were due to begin the period of Eid al-Adha — considered Islam’s most holy annual celebration.
Muslim leaders criticised the short notice given by the government, which threw arrangements for traditional family gatherings into chaos.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary-general, Harun Khan, said: “With the first day of Eid being today, for Muslims in the affected areas, it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself.
He said that the announcement was made at “shockingly short notice.”
Hazards, the workplace safety campaign, accused the government of “social murder” and called for Mr Johnson’s resignation.
“We are calling for the resignation of the PM because he has lost the trust and confidence of the population, and with that the ability to drive the virus out of our country — essential for the future mental and physical health of its people,” the campaign’s chairwoman, Janet Newsham, said.
“The north of England is in chaos, following closely behind the Leicester saga and hundreds of workplace outbreaks across the country since the unplanned, chaotic return to work started.
“People are angry that pubs and restaurants will stay open when visits to family are stopped.
“Much of the current mess is because of failed enforcement in workplaces, failed lockdowns and failure to control the risks — none of which has been mentioned while the government chooses to blame individuals, and not its own incompetence.”
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