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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Amy Gibbons

Labour MP has whip suspended over alleged racist comments to journalist

PA Wire

A Labour MP has had the party whip suspended following allegations that he made racist comments to a journalist on the Parliamentary estate.

Neil Coyle the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, has been accused of using offensive language in conversation with a reporter at Strangers’ Bar who said it caused him to feel “uncomfortable in my place of work”.

Mr Coyle apologised for the alleged comments, describing them as “insensitive”, and promised to co-operate “fully” with an investigation into his conduct.

In a statement following the withdrawal of the Labour whip, he said: “I’m very sorry for my insensitive comments, have apologised to everyone involved and will be co-operating fully with the investigation.”

Henry Dyer, who covers politics for Insider, said he reported the alleged comments to the Commons Speaker, who he said took “immediate action” with his staff and suspended Mr Coyle from the bars on the estate pending an investigation.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party expects the highest standards of behaviour from all our MPs and we take allegations of this sort very seriously.

“Accordingly, the chief whip has now suspended the Labour whip from Neil Coyle pending an investigation.”

It is understood that after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle became aware of Mr Dyer’s allegations, he convened a meeting with the Serjeant at Arms who ordered that Mr Coyle should be suspended from bars in the Commons for six months.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle took ‘immediate action’, Henry Dyer said (Parliament TV/PA) (PA Media)

Authorities in the House of Lords are believed to have taken similar action.

Mr Dyer, who is British-Chinese said he came into contact with Mr Coyle in Strangers’ Bar on the evening of Tuesday February 1, after going for Chinese New Year dinner with his family.

He accused the MP of making Sinophobic remarks, which he said made him feel uncomfortable.

The Insider reporter said he was speaking to other journalists at the bar when Mr Coyle approached the group he was in.

He claimed that during conversation, the MP commented on the recent news that Labour former shadow minister Barry Gardiner received more than £500,000 in donations from Christine Lee before he was warned she was a Chinese agent.

“Coyle made a remark suggesting Gardiner was being paid by ‘Fu Manchu’, a comment that struck me at the time as not right, given it had been well reported who had been giving Gardiner money, and so there was no need to refer to a 20th Century trope of a Chinese supervillain,” Mr Dyer said.

The journalist said he “gently pushed back” at Mr Coyle over his alleged remarks, and claimed that the MP asked if he was merely being “over-sensitive”.

Mr Dyer said Mr Coyle said he would apologise “if he had said something bad and it wasn’t just me being sensitive”.

“I responded by saying that I am British-Chinese, to which Coyle responded that he could tell, ‘from how you look like you’ve been giving renminbi [the Chinese currency] to Barry Gardiner’,” he said.

Mr Dyer claimed he had also witnessed Mr Coyle “angrily shouting at a Labour staffer” in the bar the previous evening.

On the morning of Thursday February 3, Mr Dyer said he informed the Speaker what had happened.

“The Speaker and his staff took immediate action, in conjunction with the Serjeant at Arms and the House of Lords’ authorities, to suspend Coyle from the bars on the Parliamentary estate pending an investigation by the Labour whips office into the incidents on Monday and Tuesday evening,” he said.

The campaign group Hope Not Hate said they “stand in solidarity with Henry Dyer”.

The organisation’s CEO, Nick Lowles, said: “We welcome the decision made by the Labour Party to suspend Neil Coyle from the whip, pending investigation.

“The reports of Coyle’s behaviour towards a journalist of East Asian heritage reflect views which are deeply racist and unacceptable.”

The House of Commons declined to comment.

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