Labour MP denies excluding Jews from PMQ question

Claudia Webbe said she had spent her career 'standing up for and defending the Jewish community'


Labour MP Claudia Webbe has denied that she excluded the Jewish community from a question she put to Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions today about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on minority communities in the UK.

She also said that as an "African woman" there was "no point asking me why I was discriminating against others – when we don’t".

Asking the first question, the MP for Leicester East stated: "The government keeps saying that this virus doesn’t discriminate - but that isn’t true.

"The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that black people, African and African Caribbean people are four times more likely to die from Covid 19.

"It is also disproportionately high for Bangladeshi, Pakistani  or Indian communities. What is the Prime Minister going to do now about this?"

She then added that "African, Asian and ethnic minority communities in Leicester East needed to be supported in the next stage of this  virus."

Following PMQs the JC asked Ms Webbe whether she had meant to exclude the Jewish community from her question – or whether it had been an oversight on her part.

She responded by saying: "There is no part of what I said that did not include the Jewish community.

"My mission was not to exclude anybody and I don’t think it is fair to accuse me of excluding the Jewish community."

Ms Webbe, a former member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), also confirmed to the JC she had not made an oversight in omitting to mention Jewish deaths.

"It’s not an oversight" she said. "I fully understood what I was doing when I said ‘minority ethnic’. 

"When I said African, Asian and minority ethnic communities I was inclusive not excluding."

Ms Webbe provided further explanation of her language during PMQs.

She explained: "I said African, Asian and minority ethnic communities, there are lots of communities of course.

"But I mentioned minority ethnic communities in order to capture everybody - because the question is very limited in what you can say, you only have a short amount of time.

"...When the Hindu community asks why I did not mention them, again I mentioned minority ethnic.

"If people cannot either see themselves as African or Asian then there is the term minority ethnic."

Ms Webbe explained that she was asking her question on the basis of the ONS statistics for  Covid 19 deaths.

In an email sent on Wednesday afternoon  after she spoke to the JC, Ms Webbe noted that the "ONS statistics that I cited in my question do not unfortunately cover the UK’s Jewish community."
She added: "I was shocked and saddened by recent figures from the Board of Deputies which say that 458 Jews out of a population of just 264,000 have lost their lives to the virus since the pandemic began."

Ms Webbe said she sent her "deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of every member of the Jewish community who had tragically died from coronavirus."

While speaking to the JC, the MP revealed she had been criticised because her question did not also refer to the impact Covid-19 had on men in this country – with statistics showing they were more likely to die from the virus than women.

"Why am I being told that I did not include men?" she said. "Just because of what people see - they see me and they think I didn't include them.

"That in a sense says a lot about the person, not me."

"In the same way, which part of what I said did not include the Jewish community?

"There is no part of what I said that did not include the Jewish community. We stand in solidarity, placing our arguments in the right place.

"Not with me, with the government and the Prime Minister."

Ms Webbe added she had spent her career "standing up for and defending the Jewish community."

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