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By Tobias Ellwood
By Ben Guerin
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New black MPs complain of being confused with other politicians and Parliament staff

3 min read

Two new black Labour MPs have complained of being confused with other politicians and staff since entering Parliament last month.

Florence Eshalomi joked she and her colleague Abena Oppong-Asare “need to wear massive name tags” after a number of incidents in the past few weeks.

Ms Oppong-Asare tweeted over the weekend: “The other day I was outside the House of Commons chamber talking to Rosena Allin-Khan and one of the Tory MPs walked straight to me to put his bag in my hands asking me to look after it.”

She added: “In my first week someone came up to me confusing me with another black MP.

“I said no I’m the other black sista from Erith and Thamesmead. He raised he eyebrows and said ‘wow there [are] more of you’.”

And she went on to say: “Last week another MP from another party came over to chat to me about a convo we had before Christmas. I realised a few minutes in she got me confused with another black sista.

“Im thinking I might need to write my name on my forehead as I think some people are really struggling to tell the difference.”

Her colleague Ms Eshalomi, the new MP for Vauxhall in south London, tweeted that she had faced similar problems since she was elected last month.

“Girl, I also got confused for another black sista MP as we were coming out of the voting lobby...but I have to admit it was by a fellow Labour MP,” she posted.

“Guess we all need to wear massive name tags right.”

But Angela Rayner was forced to apologise after suggesting she had also faced prejudice after people confused her with Jess Phillips.

She replied to Ms Eshalomi, saying: “Me and Jess Phillips often have the same problem because we both have an accent despite them being totally different.”

However Twitter users were quick to pull her up on this comparison, with one user writing: “For future reference when Black women are talking about their lived experiences, simply listen and fight the urge to interject.”

Ms Rayner, who is running to be Labour’s deputy leader posted later: “I’ve deleted a reply about mistaken identity as I would in no way compare that to my colleagues who are mistaken due to the colour of their skin.”

This is not the first time a black Labour MP has complained they were mistaken for a member of staff, after Dawn Butler said she was accused of being a cleaner.

The shadow women and equalities minister revealed in 2016 she has experienced "many" incidents of racism in the Houses of Parliament. 

She said: There was a time when I was in a lift, there's a members' lift that Members of Parliament use especially in case we have to get to places quickly.

"I was in the lift and some other MPs said 'this lift really isn't for cleaners'."

She added: "There was another incident where David Heathcoat-Amory when I took my team onto the terrace to have lunch, he said 'where do you think you are going' and to cut a long story short, he said 'this place is going to wreck and ruins, they'll let anybody in nowadays'.

"I did give you the short version of the story; the long version is even more horrific." 

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