Howard Beckett has apologised for his comment about the Home Secretary and said it was ‘never meant to be literal’.
The Unite leadership hopeful sits on Labour’s ruling national executive committee but it is understood he has now been suspended by the party.
Mr Beckett made the remarks following protests in Glasgow over Border Force’s detention of two men, who were released from a van after it was surrounded by demonstrators yesterday.
In a now deleted tweet, he said: ‘Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.’
A member of Labour’s NEC and fellow Unite member, Gurinder Singh Josan, responded: ‘Howard showing his true colours? I totally disagree on pretty much everything with Priti Patel but this is simply dog whistle racism against a woman of colour. Delete this now!’
Left-wing journalist Owen Jones said: ‘You should never call for a person of colour to be deported, whoever they are!’
Labour MP Chris Bryant said: ‘This is vile. This should play no part in Labour – or in British politics.’
However others on social media defended Beckett, saying his comments were aimed at the Home Secretary’s policies on the deportation of refugees and not her ethnic background.
Mr Beckett later tweeted: ‘I’m very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim Refugees being deported on the morning of Eid Al Fitr.
‘My earlier tweet, deleted after half an hour, was never intended to be literal.
‘My intention was to emphasise that racist policies should be rejected & have no place in society.
Cheers as police release men from immigration van after protesters block road
‘The wording was wrong, offensive & I apologise unreservedly to Priti Patel. No one should be deported.’
It is understood neither of the men involved in the situation in Glasgow is Muslim.
A Labour spokesman said the party ‘takes these allegations extremely seriously’ and promised appropriate action.
Tory MP Steve Baker said it was ‘an extraordinary, absolutely intolerable remark’ which must have a ‘robust response’ from Labour.
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