A British lawmaker has been suspended after a recording surfaced of her using a racial slur to describe the UK leaving the European Union without a deal.
Anne Marie Morris, MP for the town of Newton Abbot, made the remark Monday during a meeting to discuss the future of the UK’s profitable financial sector following last summer’s Brexit vote, The Huffington Post UK reported.
Morris spoke about which financial services deal the country could land with Brussels after 2019, asserting that just 7 percent of financial services in the UK would be impacted by its departure from the union.
“Now I am sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that, but my response and my request is look at the detail,” Morris was recorded as saying. “It isn’t all doom and gloom.”
“Now we get to the real n-gger in the woodpile which is in two years — what happens if there is no deal?” she added.
The HuffPost UK later published the offensive remark, after which the Tory MP offered an apology, saying, “The comment was totally unintentional and I apologize unreservedly for any offence caused.”
Other panelists in the room with Morris didn’t seem to react when she made the comment. The backlash from fellow politicians came later, however, with many describing her choice of words as “disgusting.”
Tim Farron, outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the comment “belongs in the era of the Jim Crow laws and has no place in our parliament.”
“I’m utterly shocked that this person represents the good people of Newton Abbot,” Farron continued. “Even if she misspoke, this is the nastiest thing I have heard an MP utter since Lord [Robert] Dixon-Smith uttered the same awful phrase a few years ago.”
That’s right — this is the second time a British lawmaker has used the racially insensitive phrase. In 2008, Dixon-Smith apologized for letting it “slip out” during a session in the House of Lords, adding that “it was a common parlance when I was younger.”
However, The Atlantic pointed out that the phrase predates both Morris, 60, and Dixon-Smith, 83. The publication cited the Oxford English Dictionary, which revealed that the phrase’s earliest usage can be traced back to 1843 during the era of the Underground Railroad in the U.S. It was often used in song lyrics to reference enslaved Blacks who concealed themselves in piles of wood during their escape to the North.
Today, the phrase is used to describe an “unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way,” or a hidden problem.
“It doesn’t really seem to take off as a figurative expression that lots of people used until the turn of the 20th century,” Dr. Lynne Murphy, a professor of linguistics at the University of Sussex, told The Atlantic. “By the 1960s in America, it started to be a very un-favored phrase for obvious reasons.”
However, “Britain doesn’t have the same history of racial politics that America does, and it perhaps didn’t strike people as really offensive here as it did in America, so it continued to be used quite a bit,” Murphy added.
Though Morris is suspended, she’ll be allowed to keep her spot as a member of parliament as an independent, according to the publication. Still, several UK lawmakers have pushed for Prime Minister Theresa May to take additional disciplinary action.
“I was shocked to hear of these remarks, which are completely unacceptable,” May said in a statement. “I immediately asked the Chief Whip to suspend the party whip.”
“Language like this has absolutely no place in politics or in today’s society.”