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20 April 2024

Black British politician sorry for Twitter race row


A black British lawmaker apologised on Thursday for a Twitter comment saying that white people "love playing divide and rule", a day after two men were jailed for the country's most notorious race murder.

Labour MP Diane Abbott, the public health spokesman for Britain's main opposition party, made the comment during a conversation about the sentencing of the white men for the killing in 1993 of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

"White people love playing 'divide & rule'. We should not play their game," she said in a tweet on the social networking site late Wednesday in response to a comment about solidarity in ethnic communities.

She added a "hashtag" -- a way Twitter users highlight topics -- which said "îtacticasoldascolonialism".

Her comment quickly sparked a storm, with her own party calling it "wrong" and lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition calling for her to apologise or resign.

One Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, said a "healthy society should not tolerate any form of racism".

In a statement on Thursday, Abbott said: "I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused."

Abbott had earlier appeared on television to insist that her tweet was taken out of context -- but then took a call mid-interview which was reportedly from Labour leader Ed Miliband, ordering her to say sorry.

A judge on Wednesday handed jail terms of 14 and 15 years respectively to David Norris and Gary Dobson, two members of a white gang, after they were convicted of knifing Stephen Lawrence to death in south London in April 1993.