Sir Keir Starmer has described MP Rupa Huq’s comments about Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng being “superficially” black as clearly “racist”.
The Labour leader welcomed the party taking “very swift action” in suspending Ms Huq’s membership after her remarks at the party conference were revealed.
She offered a “sincere and heartfelt” apology to Mr Kwarteng over her “ill-judged” comments after being criticised by senior Labour figures.
The MP for Ealing Central and Acton in west London was administratively suspended from the party, and therefore lost the party whip, after audio was published online.
Sir Keir told LBC Radio: “What she said, in my view, was racist, it was wrong and she’s been suspended from the whip in the party and that was done very, very quickly.
“I think that tells you how strongly I feel about those comments.”
Sir Keir will hope the case’s handling will distance him from his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, who faced allegations of dithering over cases of antisemitism.
I have today contacted Kwasi Kwarteng to offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies for the comments I made at yesterday’s Labour conference fringe meeting. My comments were ill-judged and I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone affected.
— Rupa Huq MP (@RupaHuq) September 27, 2022
The current leader said it was not his decision to suspend Ms Huq but welcomed it as one “I absolutely agree with”, saying the MP faces an investigation.
On BBC Breakfast, Sir Keir conceded it was “frustrating” to have to discuss the comments during a conference in Liverpool that has otherwise been seen as a success for Labour.
In audio published by the Guido Fawkes website, Ms Huq was heard discussing Mr Kwarteng’s elite school background, before saying “you wouldn’t know he is black” when listening to him on the radio.
“Superficially he is a black man,” she told the event on the conference’s fringes.
“He went to Eton, I think. He went to a very expensive prep school. All the way through, the top schools in the country…
“If you hear him on the Today programme, you wouldn’t know he is black.”
Tory party chairman Jake Berry raised his “serious concerns” in a letter to Sir Keir and demanded Ms Huq’s suspension, with the audio being published shortly before Sir Keir’s set-piece conference speech.