Why is a ‘gaslighting’ row raging around Priti Patel?

UK Interior Minister ‘will not be silenced’ after she was criticised for talking about her experience with racism

Last month the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel (pictured), spoke to her French counterpart, Christophe Castaner.  AFP
Last month the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel (pictured), spoke to her French counterpart, Christophe Castaner.  AFP

A letter signed by British opposition MPs criticising Home Secretary Priti Patel’s response to Black Lives Matter protests and accusing her of "gaslighting" has been slammed by Conservatives.

Ms Patel on Thursday hit back at claims that she used her experiences of racism to undermine the concerns of black people in the UK who are protesting against racial injustice after the killing of George Floyd in the US.

Thirty-two opposition members of Parliament from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, led by shadow communities minister Naz Shah, sent a strongly worded letter to the Home Secretary.

They accused her of using her “heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by black people and communities across the UK”.

“Being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism,” they said.

Ms Patel, who said she was “sad” to receive the letter, fired back at the group for continuing to “dismiss the contributions of those who don’t conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave”.

In a heated exchange in Parliament on Wednesday, Ms Patel recalled experiencing racial abuse as a child while at school.

Rejecting claims that the government did not understand racial inequality, she told the opposition benches that she would not “take lectures from the other side of the House”.

Ms Patel, 48, was born in London but her grandparents were born in India.

Ms Shah said the government must do more for racial justice.

Senior Conservative party figures took to Twitter to defend Ms Patel, with MP Johnny Mercer praising her performance in Parliament as “extremely powerful”.

Mr Mercer said it was “extraordinary” for the opposition MPs “to accuse Priti of gaslighting [with] her discriminatory experiences”.

Treasury and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch also stood up for Ms Patel, calling the letter shameful and an “attempt to score party political points”.

Middle East Minister James Cleverly called the letter “deeply offensive and crass”.

Ms Patel condemned the wave of protests calling for justice after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, because they went against the country’s coronavirus lockdown rules.

She also criticised the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston by demonstrators in the city of Bristol.

The statue had been the target of long-running campaigns calling for its removal over Colston’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Updated: June 12, 2020 12:25 AM

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