Yorkshire MP's husband sends one-line apology over racist incident denial

The husband of a Yorkshire MP has sent a one-line apology to the Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, three weeks after he accused her of lying about a racist incident in Parliament.

Lib Dem MP Angela Smith, whose husband is Steve Wilson. Photo: Getty
Lib Dem MP Angela Smith, whose husband is Steve Wilson. Photo: Getty

Earlier this month Labour MP Dawn Butler tweeted about an incident in Westminster, where she was mistaken for a cleaner and told a lift she was using was not for cleaning staff.

But Steve Wilson, the husband of Penistone and Stocksbridge Liberal Democrat MP Angela Smith, who also works as her office manager, replied to the tweet saying it was “just not true” and said accounts like Ms Butler’s “don’t do anyone justice and anyone propagating them should stop it”.

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Mr Wilson apologised via a statement at the time, but Ms Butler has now received an email from Mr Wilson, and a letter from Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, three weeks after she first wrote to her about the issue and after she submitted an official complaint.

Mr Wilson’s email said: “Further to recent events considering comments made on Twitter, I would like to apologise wholeheartedly for the comments I made and the subsequent offence I caused.”

Ms Butler initially wrote to Ms Swinson and said she “found the trolling deeply disturbing”.

She said: “To be accused of lying about a racist incident I experienced was particularly distressing. This type of gaslighting is totally unacceptable.”

Ms Butler added: “When I first entered Parliament I was told by another MP in a lift in Parliament that ‘this lift isn’t for cleaners’. He assumed I was a cleaner because I’m black. This isn’t a ‘story’ or a lie.”

The letter from Ms Swinson said: “I want to be very clear that I absolutely believe that your experience in the lift in genuine, and I think it is vital that when these experiences are shared that they are believed and not dismissed.”

She added: “I believe we all have a responsibility to be careful with the words we use and to make sure that we are communicating in a way that is sensitive and appropriate. I understand that Mr Wilson has issued an apology for his tweet, which I believe to be essential in the circumstances.”

Ms Butler said: said: “It has taken almost three weeks to get a one-line apology from Steven Wilson and what’s clear from this is he was forced to do so. It’s disappointing that it only came after my formal complaint to the Liberal Democrats.

“It’s still unclear however, whether Jo Swinson has followed her party’s disciplinary procedure and taken action against Steven Wilson; he should be disciplined for his behaviour and be required to undergo diversity training.”

She has since written to the leader again for more information.