, LONDON, Jan 5 – A black British lawmaker apologised on Thursday for a Twitter comment saying that white people “love playing divide and rule”, a day after two men were jailed for the country’s most notorious race murder.
Labour MP Diane Abbott, the public health spokesman for Britain’s main opposition party, made the comment during a conversation about the sentencing of the white men for the killing in 1993 of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
“White people love playing ‘divide & rule’. We should not play their game,” she said in a tweet on the social networking site late Wednesday in response to a comment about solidarity in ethnic communities.
She added a “hashtag” – a way Twitter users highlight topics – which said “#tacticasoldascolonialism”.
Her comment quickly sparked a storm, with her own party calling it “wrong” and lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron’s ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition calling for her to apologise or resign.
One Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, said a “healthy society should not tolerate any form of racism”.
In a statement on Thursday, Abbott said: “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused.”
Abbott had earlier appeared on television to insist that her tweet was taken out of context – but then took a call mid-interview which was reportedly from Labour leader Ed Miliband, ordering her to say sorry.
A judge on Wednesday handed jail terms of 14 and 15 years respectively to David Norris and Gary Dobson, two members of a white gang, after they were convicted of knifing Stephen Lawrence to death in south London in April 1993.
The killing and the subsequent botched police investigation prompted a major overhaul of policing in Britain.