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Union official Howard Beckett calls Priti Patel ‘racist’ and ‘elitist’ in row over deportation tweet

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Top union official Howard Beckett calls Priti Patel ‘racist’ and ‘elitist’ and says Labour were ‘inappropriate’ to suspend him for calling for her to be deported saying it was ‘obviously’ not mean to be taken literally

  • Unite’s assistant general secretary was suspended by Labour last night
  • Amid protests in Glasgow he wrote: ‘Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees’
  • Border Force tried to detain two men, but released them after van surrounded

A hard left trade union official branded Priti Patel ‘racist’ and ‘elitist’ today as he offered a mealy-mouthed apology for demanding she be deported.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett – who is standing for the leadership of Labour’s largest affiliate – was suspended by the party last night over a tweet he sent.

Amid protests in Glasgow over the detention of two men by Border Force officials during Eid he wrote: ‘Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees’.




But appearing on Sky News today in an attempt to quell the row he doubled down on criticism of the Home Secretary, whose is of Indian heritage.

He also attacked Labour saying his suspension was ‘inappropriate’ and that no one had contacted him to confirm it. Unite is closely linked to Keir Starmer’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-Left policies.

Mr Beckett told the broadcaster that the tweet ‘obviously’ was not mean to be taken literally, adding: ‘The idea that I would think that the Home Secretary would or should be deported – I am against all forms of deportation.

‘It was only two weeks ago that I was at a rally that was moved on by the police on ”support not deport” with reference to refugees.

‘Obviously what I was trying to do was highlight the fact that Priti Patel was taking a position from elitism and privilege, one that is racist. 




Amid protests in Glasgow over the detention of two men by Border Force officials during Eid he wrote: 'Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees'.

Amid protests in Glasgow over the detention of two men by Border Force officials during Eid he wrote: ‘Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees’.

Appearing on Sky News today in an attempt to quell the row Mr Beckett doubled down on criticism of the Home Secretary, whose is of Indian heritage.

Appearing on Sky News today in an attempt to quell the row Mr Beckett doubled down on criticism of the Home Secretary, whose is of Indian heritage. 

‘The consequence of that is very real for these people in Glasgow who were imprisoned by the police. This is the arm of the state carrying out racist legislation and I wanted to highlight that.

‘But obviously I regret the words that were used, some people read it in a literal context and I apologise for those words, I took the tweet down in half an hour.’

Huge crowds cheered and applauded yesterday when the two Indian men, initially detained by Border Force officials in the van, were eventually released by police following a stand-off with hundreds of protesters.




It sparked an unlikely row as the favourite to take over Britain’s largest trade union was suspended by Labour and allegedly reported to the police for a hate crime after he called for Priti Patel to be deported in its wake.

In a message posted on Twitter yesterday, the Jeremy Corbyn supporter who says socialism is his religion, was accused of racism and sounding more like a far-right fascist, when he called for the Home Secretary, Britain’s most senior ethnic minority politician, to be kicked out of the UK.

The tweet, in response to an attempt to deport the two asylum seekers in Glasgow, read: ‘Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.’

Howard Beckett (centre) is running to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite, but has been suspended by Labour

Howard Beckett (centre) is running to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite, but has been suspended by Labour

The detained men raise their arms as they are released by police today following a huge stand-off with protesters in Glasgow

The detained men raise their arms as they are released by police today following a huge stand-off with protesters in Glasgow




Beckett initially refused to back down, before deleting the message and apologising. 

But it prompted an immediate backlash, with social media users telling Mr Beckett it was ‘racist’ and warning his remark ‘sounded like the BNP’.

Police Scotland released the Indian nationals after people surrounded the immigration enforcement van and prevented it from leaving on Thursday.

It is understood neither of the men involved in the situation in Glasgow is Muslim.  

Labour MP Chris Bryant said: ‘This is vile. This should play no part in Labour – or in British politics.’




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.

Mr Beckett sits on Labour’s ruling national executive committee but his suspension would bar him from doing so.  

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