Brent Central MP Dawn Butler mistaken for a cleaner at the house of commons

PUBLISHED: 16:08 29 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:24 29 February 2016

Dawn Butler is the Labour MP for Brent Central

Dawn Butler is the Labour MP for Brent Central


Brent Central MP Dawn Butler said she hopes politicians of colour will not have to “suffer what she has suffered” after she was mistaken for a cleaner by a fellow commons member.

The Labour MP said she was “surprised” to find herself at the heart of a racism row after she made the shocking revelation yesterday.

The 46-year-old claimed she was travelling in a dedicated lift for MPs when the politician said to her “This lift really isn’t for cleaners”.

She has refused to name the person.

Recalling her horror in the moments after the incident, she said: “I ran after the very vocal MP who had said it and told him ‘even if I was a cleaner, that’s a horrible way to treat someone.”

Ms Butler, who claims other MPs of colour have had similar experiences, says she has received a number of “unsavoury” emails and messages on social media site Twitter since bringing the issue to light.

She claims one “horrible” sender accused her of “being an even worse cleaner than you are an MP.”

The MP, who was first elected to parliament in 2005-2010 before being re-elected in 2015, also told the Times she started keeping a diary of similar incidents in her first few years as an MP but stopped when she realised it had become “really angry”.

Ms Butler claims that after the incident she held a discussion with the chief whips of both parties in an attempt to reduce racist attitudes but found they were unable to act as “there is no HR management in parliament, unlike in a normal workplace.”

Explaining her motivation to speak out about a catalogue of incidents including an exchange in 2008 when Conservative MP David Heathcote-Amory did not recognise her as an MP on the House of Commons terrace she spoke of her hope that future MPs would not be subjected to the same treatment.

“I want to make it better for others coming behind me. It take it very seriously that it’s my job and my duty. I don’t expect that any other person of colour that comes behind me should suffer what I have suffered,” she added.

Wading into the controversy over the lack of black actors in this year’s Oscars nominations, she added: “Racism used to be a lot more accepted and acceptable, but now it’s a little bit more covert.

She added: “I don’t think we will ever get to a post-racial age. All you can hope to do is change peoples’ attitudes towards diversity”.

Currently, six per cent of 650 MPs in the House of Commons are black and minority ethnic (BME), marking a 50 per cent increase since the 2010 election.

Twenty four BME Labour MPs were elected to parliament in the 2015 election, while 16 Conservatives MPs of BME origin won seats.


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