LABOUR has withdrawn the party whip from Diane Abbott after she suggested Irish, Jewish and Traveller people cannot suffer lifelong racism.

She compared their experience to the prejudice suffered by “redheads”. 

The Hackney MP said she wanted to “wholly and unreservedly withdraw” her remarks, which were made in a letter in today’s Observer newspaper.

She apologised for “any anguish caused”, blaming a draft letter being sent by mistake.

A Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party completely condemns these comments, which are deeply offensive and wrong. The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Diane Abbott pending an investigation.”

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The withdrawal of the whip means Ms Abbott, who was the shadow home secretary for four years under Jeremy Corbyn, will now sit in the Commons as an Independent MP like the suspended former Labour leader.

In her letter, was responding to a previous article in the paper which claimed Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffered from “racism”.

Taking issue with this, Ms Abbott wrote: “They undoubtedly experience prejudice. 

“This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.

“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. 

“But they are not all their lives subject to racism. 

“In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

Ms Abbott, 69, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, backtracked in a statement on Twitter this morning.  

She said: “I am writing regarding my letter that was recently published in the Observer.

“I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them.

“The errors arose in an initial draft being sent.

“But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.

“Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others.

“Once again, I would likely [sic] to apologise publicly for the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them.”

Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said Ms Abbott’s letter was “deeply offensive and deeply depressing” and commended the swift suspension.

She teeetet: "Keir Starmer’s response is right. No excuses. No delays. The comments will be investigated and she has been immediately suspended.”

Tory Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter: “Once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hateful antisemitism. Keir Starmer, are you actually going to do anything?”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Diane Abbott’s claim that Jewish people cannot suffer racism is outrageous in itself, but made all the more extraordinary given all that has unfolded in the Labour Party over the past few years.

“She and her allies on the far left of the party could never accept how bad antisemitism had become because they do not even acknowledge that it is a form of racism.

“We already made complaints against her, which the party has never investigated. Her suspension now is past time, and must be the first step towards her expulsion from the party.”

Labour Against Antisemitism, which had called for the withdrawal of the whip, said Ms Abbott’s comments were “simply unacceptable”.

Spokeswoman Fiona Sharpe said: “To reduce the racism faced by Jews to mere prejudice when in living memory six million Jews were systematically slaughtered in Europe for their race is grossly offensive.

“In the UK today one in five of all Jews have suffered a racist attack, with more than one in three Gypsy, Roma and Traveller reporting the same.

“Ms Abbott is either woefully misinformed or deliberately bigoted. Neither should be tolerated.”

The Jewish Labour Movement added: “Diane Abbott is one of the most respected people in the Labour Party as an activist who overcame racism and prejudice to become Britain’s first black woman MP.

“We should be unified in our struggle against racism, not divided against one another.

“A hierarchy of racism only divides communities and assists the racists. We must not allow this.

“We take seriously our responsibility to unite with friends and partners across the Labour movement to fight racism together.”