More than half of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) MPs say they have experienced racism, racial profiling and prejudice from fellow MPs, an ITV News investigation has found.
In an anonymous survey sent by ITV News to all 65 BAME MPs, 62% of the 37 respondents said they had experienced racism from staff in the Houses of Parliament while 51% said they had dealt with racism from fellow MPs.
Of the respondents – which include MPs from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – several spoke of what they had experienced throughout their careers.
Labour’s Tulip Siddiq told ITV News that when she told a fellow MP in the chamber of the House of Commons she was pregnant, her colleague said she was surprised doctors had told her she was having a daughter, as she believed that people from an Asian background are more likely to abort baby girls.
“Speaking to a colleague of a mine, she looked at me in astonishment and said ‘you know you’re having a girl because normally they don’t tell people of Asian origin they’re having a girl because you know, then Asian people decide’… and I looked at her and I couldn’t believe what she was saying,” she told ITV News.
MPs also spoke of the racial profiling and prejudice they’ve faced within the Houses of Parliament. Several highlighted how they had been mistaken for other MPs throughout their time in Westminster, while another said they were told a lift designated for MPs was “not for cleaners”.
Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central, told ITV News of how she was once escorted out of an MP-only room by security. “A police officer came to physically escort me out of the members’ tearoom even though he was told I was a member of parliament. He later sent me a written apology,” she revealed.
Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah said there was no equality for BAME MPs in the Houses of Parliament.
“You battled your way [to parliament], broken the glass ceiling, you think there’s going to be equality, we can advocate equality for the whole of the country and that’s what we’re supposed to be doing but actually we’re landing somewhere we don’t have that equality,” she said.
“Even if you look at the last few weeks with the select committees, 20 select committees, not one BAME MP was made chair.”
A total of 92% of the BAME MPs who responded to the survey said they believed it was more difficult for them to get elected to Westminster because of their ethnicity and faith.
Ms Siddiq said she was advised to use her husband’s English surname when running to become an MP in Hampstead and Kilburn because she was told no one would vote for “Tulip Siddiq”.
Multiple others who responded anonymously to the ITV News survey said concerns about racism within Westminster are often dismissed by fellow MPs.
A total of 81% of the respondents said they had faced racism about their ethnicity or religious beliefs from the public.
One MP, speaking anonymously, said they had been spat at in the street owing to their religious beliefs, while others mentioned racist comments on the doorstep, death threats, racist letters and emails.
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon, Lib Dem Layla Moran, who is of Palestinian descent, said she often gets people trying to “tear her down”.
92% say it was more difficult for them to become MPs because of their ethnicity
83% say their ethnicity has made their work as an MP more difficult
81% have experienced racism from public
62% have experienced racism or racial profiling from on the parliamentary estate
51% have experienced racism or racial profiling from fellow MPs
“The comments about going home come to me a lot. It is really hurtful and horrible. You learn to wear an armoured jacket so you don’t listen to it. I’ve got as much right to be here as anyone else,” she said.
Manchester Gorton MP Afzal Khan added that he believes there is now a “license to challenge people’s right to be here”.
“For over 50-plus years I’ve been here, this is my country, everything I have, everything I want to give back, is to this country,” the Labour MP said.
A House of Commons spokesperson responded to the survey and said: “It is unacceptable that some MPs have experienced racism, and we are particularly concerned to hear of instances occurring on the Parliamentary Estate.
“We are committed to taking any necessary steps to ensure this does not happen in future.”