BRITISH Labour shadow health minister Diane Abbott is facing fresh calls to resign after enraging London’s taxi drivers with a claim that they routinely refuse to pick up passengers who are black.
Miss Abbott came close to losing her job yesterday and was forced to apologise over her comment on Twitter that “white people love playing ‘divide and rule’”.
It seemed that her apology had deflected the worst of the criticism, which included the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, condemning her as “stupid and crass” and her own party authorities issuing a public rebuke.
However, taxi drivers were outraged to learn of further remarks from the Labour MP in which she alleged that they drive past black people who attempt to hail a cab.
Her comments came in response to a conversation about racism on the microblogging site over the Stephen Lawrence murder trial earlier this week.
Miss Abbott, the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, tweeted: “Dubious of black people claiming they’ve never experienced racism. Ever tried hailing a taxi I always wonder?”
Steve McNamara, a spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said Miss Abbott was either “racist” or “stupid” and should resign.
He said he had personally picked up Miss Abbott about 15 years ago and taken her to “a rather trendy mews development” in Stoke Newington.
“We find it amazing that in this day and age someone in Diane Abbott’s position can try to resurrect the stereotypes from the 1960s. At worst she is racist and at best she is stupid in making comments like that. Either way, she should go.”
Mr McNamara said the “knowledge” training schools in which taxi drivers learn the routes around the capital are all equipped with prayer rooms, while a “substantial proportion” of the LTDA’s 9,000 members are from black, Muslim, and other ethnic minority backgrounds.
He said the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, was too “frightened” to sack Miss Abbott. “She is a high profile black woman and he is obviously weak,” he said. “It shouldn’t matter what colour you are, if you make these stupid and crass comments you should go.”
Mr McNamara added: “She might have trouble getting a cab in the future and it won’t be because she’s black, it will be because she is stupid. I certainly won’t be stopping for her.”
Miss Abbott was unavailable for comment but it is understood that she was reflecting on her own personal experiences and had not meant to offend taxi drivers.
On Thursday, Miss Abbott, the first black female MP in the Commons, was ordered to apologise over her remarks, also on Twitter, that white people love playing “divide and rule”.
Initially she had claimed that her comment had been “maliciously” taken “out of context”. But after a “difficult” phone call from Mr Miliband, which interrupted her during a television interview, Labour headquarters issued a statement in which Miss Abbott said she was sorry “for any offence caused”. She has not posted any comments on Twitter since.