Tory politician suspended over use of racist phrase

Theresa May says comment by MP Anne Marie Morris ‘completely unacceptable’

Anne Marie Morris campaigned to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum. File photograph: Conservative Party/PA Wire

Anne Marie Morris campaigned to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum. File photograph: Conservative Party/PA Wire

 

A Brexit-backing Conservative MP who described the prospect of leaving the European Union with no deal as “the real n***** in the woodpile” has been suspended from the parliamentary party.

British prime minister Theresa May said the comment by Anne Marie Morris was “completely unacceptable” and she was having the whip withdrawn.

“I was shocked to hear of these remarks, which are completely unacceptable. I immediately asked the chief whip to suspend the party whip,” Ms May said.

“Language like this has absolutely no place in politics or in today’s society.”

Ms Morris had stirred outrage on Monday by using racist language at a think-tank event on the implications of Brexit on the financial services sector.

Ms Morris, who campaigned to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, described her view of what could be done to ensure a good exit deal with the EU in the two years allowed for talks. She then continued: “And then we get to the real n***** in the woodpile which is, in two years, what will happen if there is no deal.”

She later apologised unreservedly for any offence caused. “The comment was entirely unintentional.”

Politicians, lawyers and senior city figures had gathered at the East India Club in London to hear the presentation of a blueprint for the financial services sector post-Brexit.

Before her suspension, Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrat party, said he was shocked and that she should immediately be excluded from the Conservative parliamentary group.

‘Compassionate conservatism’

“Every hour they leave her in place is a stain on them and the so called ‘compassionate conservatism’ they supposedly espouse,” he had said.

Deputies of the main Labour opposition party echoed the call that she be excluded from her parliamentary group or, in parliamentary parlance, stripped of the whip.

The offending phrase is believed to be rooted in slavery in the United States. It came to be used to describe something unexpected or wrong but is now generally viewed with disdain as racist.

Reuters/PA