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Jacob Rees-Mogg has issued an apology after complaints from MPs that he had used racist language, but claimed he “didn’t know” he had used an offensive term.
The House of Commons leader used the term “yellow peril”, which has historically been considered to be an anti-Asian slur, to describe the Liberal Democrats during a Commons debate.
Responding to a question from Conservative MP Damien Moore about transport links in his constituency, Rees-Mogg had replied: “I hear gossip that [Moore] is actually working in collaboration, and whisper it quietly, with the Liberal Democrats, in his area against these schemes, which I think shows how completely lunatic they must be to have created an alliance between him and the yellow peril.”
His comments provoked anger from MPs, with British-Chinese MP Sarah Owen saying there was “simply no excuse” for the term to be used.
“In the last 30 mins Jacob Rees-Mogg has just used the racist term ‘yellow peril’ in Parliament,” she tweeted.
“There is simply no excuse for it and it was made worse by the fact the only two MPs of ESEA descent were sat on the front-benches as we words ‘yellow peril’ left his mouth.”
Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire also raised the comments with Rees-Mogg, saying she found it “really difficult” to understand why he had used the term.
I am v grateful to @ThangamMP who raised JRM’s use of racist language in the house as a point of order.
There is simply no excuse for it and it was made worse by the fact the only two MPs of ESEA descent were sat on the front-benches as the words “yellow peril” left his mouth.
— Sarah Owen MP (@SarahOwen_) July 22, 2021
“Unfortunately, and I hope the Leader is doing this unintentionally, the Leader made use of an extremely offensive racist term which, I find really difficult to understand but I am sure it may be possible that he wasn’t aware it was, in relation to the Liberal Democracts.”
The Labour MP added she hoped Rees-Mogg would “reconsider” his language adding that the Tory minister had “spoken powerfully and correctly over the last few months about the scourge of racism and his commitment to ending it.”
Responding to the comments, Rees-Mogg said he apologised “profoundly” for the use of a racist term, but added he was unaware of what he had said.
“If I have used a term which is offensive I apologise profoundly,” he told MPs.
“I had absolutely no intention of using any term that was offensive, I don’t actually know what term I used that was offensive, so if out of ignorance I have, I apologise.”
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