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Britain’s newest political group isn’t even a day old. It’s already been accused of racism.

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2/18/2019 Jennifer Hassan
Former British Labour Party MP Angela Smith speaks at the Independent Group Party launch Monday in London. (Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) © Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Former British Labour Party MP Angela Smith speaks at the Independent Group Party launch Monday in London. (Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

LONDON — How big a problem is racism in the United Kingdom? Ask lawmaker and Labour Party defector Angela Smith. Or, perhaps, don’t.

It started out as just another regular week in the world of British politics, with resignations, bickering and a big dollop of uncertainty. Seven lawmakers announced early Monday that they were quitting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and forming their own group. They cited Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism allegations as some of the reasons for their decision to split.

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But, just hours after the Independent Group announced its formation, the new party found itself at the center of a racism row.

Appearing on BBC Politics Live to talk about racism in the United Kingdom, lawmaker Angela Smith appeared to refer to black and other ethnic minorities as being of a “funny tinge” or, as some heard, a “funny tint."

Although some of the comment is slightly inaudible, the MP appeared to say: “It’s not just about being black or a funny tin-” while looking rather awkward and stuttering. “From the BAME community” she added. (The abbreviation stands for black, Asian and minority ethnic people.)

Smith’s comment was immediately called into question by journalist Ash Sarkar, who, visibly stunned, asked: “A funny what?” Smith did not elaborate on her comments during the clip.

It didn’t take long for Smith’s remarks — and her name — to begin trending on Twitter, with many criticizing her comments and calling for her to resign. Some suggested the new party be renamed “The Funny Tinge Group,” while others declared they were funny-tinged and proud.

“They’ve been in existence for less than a day, but the Independent Group have already become involved in a racism row. #funnytinge,” tweeted Channel 4 correspondent Fatima Manji.

“Really shocking to hear the Angela Smith ‘funny tinge’ comments — how does that phrase even cross your mind when referring to racism? But those involved in the Independent Group should denounce what she’s said.” tweeted journalist Jane Merrick.

Smith later issued an apology for her comments on Twitter, saying she “misspoke” and was “very upset.”

“It’s not who I am. I am committed to fighting racism wherever I find it in our society,” she said in a video.

“Issuing a first apology 5hrs and 29 minutes into a political grouping’s existence must be some some sort of record,” Guardian Media Editor Jim Waterson tweeted — much to the delight of many.


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