Fury as Conservative MP blames non-whites for UK coronavirus surge

Updated on Aug 01, 2020 01:26 AM IST

Craig Whittaker, MP for the Calder Valley in west Yorkshire, one of the areas affected by the recent surge, told LBC radio that Muslim and non-white communities referred to as BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) have not been obeying lockdown rules.

Many pointed out that several non-white doctors and nurses had passed away after being infected while treating patients.(AFP)
Many pointed out that several non-white doctors and nurses had passed away after being infected while treating patients.(AFP)
Hindustan Times, London | By

An MP of the ruling Conservative Party on Friday blamed Muslims and non-white communities for allegedly not obeying lockdown rules that led to a surge in cases and curbs being reimposed in north England, sparking fury among many who demanded an apology.

Craig Whittaker, MP for the Calder Valley in west Yorkshire, one of the areas affected by the recent surge, told LBC radio that Muslim and non-white communities referred to as BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) have not been obeying lockdown rules.

He said: “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 referring to 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.

“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.” Asked to clarify if he was referring to immigrants, he said: “Immigrant and Asian population.”

The remarks prompted a flood of criticism as well as some praise on social media for Whittaker “for saying what needs to be said.”

Many pointed out that several non-white doctors and nurses had passed away after being infected while treating patients. Some posted images of large crowds on beaches in Bournemouth and elsewhere, violating lockdown rules, and of events with gatherings without social distancing.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy remarked after Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a briefing on delaying lockdown easing due to a rise in cases: “Absolutely grim to hear the PM failing to correct these stupid, divisive remarks”.

“We’ve just had a huge rise in cases in Greater Manchester in a borough with one of the lowest BAME populations. Time to stop the blame game and give us all proper advice to follow”, she tweeted.

Nadia Whittome, another Labour MP of Indian heritage, added: “Can’t you people take a day off from scapegoating us for your own mistakes? This made up nonsense is designed to make us angry with each other instead of a government that did too little, too late”.

Areas under local lockdowns and new curbs include cities with large non-white populations, such as Leicester and towns in north England. The Johnson government has set up inquiries to explore the disproportionate ways in which non-whites have been affected by the virus.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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