‘I Don’t Like Labeling of Minorities,’ Says UK MP Priti Patel

Priti Patel has told her political colleagues and civil servants not to refer to her as BME-- an abbreviation for the term, "Black, Minority Ethnic."


British Conservative Party MP Priti Patel has said that she doesn’t like the “labeling,” such as Black or Minority Ethnic (BME), attached with black and minority ethnic population, the BBC reported.

Patel called the common abbreviation of the term “patronizing and insulting,” and said, “I’m British first and foremost, because I was born in Britain.” Patel, who was the first Indian-origin woman member of the UK Cabinet until her resignation last year, added: “I don’t like the labeling of people. I don’t like the term BME. I challenge all my colleagues in the Conservative Party and in Westminster: Don’t label me as a BME. I’ve said that to people in the Cabinet. I’ve said that to civil servants. I think it’s patronizing and insulting.”

The 45-year-old politician, who represents Witham in Essex, said the term BME was “totally unhelpful because we are people and everybody wants to be recognized for their individual merits.”

She added on the radio show that while she would like to see more Indian-origin people in politics, it would be a “regressive step” for any political party or government to put people in posts “just because they are women or because they represent a minority group.”

The former international development minister expressed doubts if the United Kingdom would ever see a minority prime minister, pointing out there are many institutional barriers and “patronage” in UK’s political system. However, if such a thing were to happen, it would show the country was a true “meritocracy.” When asked if she could be the prime minister, Patel replied, “Who knows?”

Her comments invited criticism from prominent personalities such as Maajid Nawaz and Meena Kandasamy. Nawaz, a British author who hosts a weekend show on LBC radio, said: “To dismiss who you are, because you just want to be seen as British, is unnecessary. You can be British and have other identities too. You can’t pretend that you’re not a woman, or a British Indian.”

Kandasamy called Patel’s comments in her Facebook post “appalling,” and said, “Appalling but I’m not surprised. To aspire to whiteness is a very desi problem.”

Patel was forced to step down from her position in the Cabinet in November last year when it was revealed that she held 14 undisclosed, unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials. While talking about this controversy, she said, she was “very clear” with Prime Minister Theresa May. “I took responsibility for what she felt was not acceptable, so I think I did the right thing,” Patel added.

Patel, who was born to Gujarati parents who fled Uganda in the 1960s, is among the most vocal pro-Brexit voices in the Conservative Party. The House of Commons has about 52 BMEs currently, which is a two per cent increase since 2015.

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