It was only 15 years ago that Theresa May, then party chairman of the Conservatives, gave an impassioned speech calling for her party face up to an “uncomfortable truth”. In her own words she admitted that the Tories were perceived as the “nasty party” yet under her rule things have barely changed.
There is arguably nothing nastier than the sound of an MP casually using a racial slur behind the closed doors of a fancy private member’s club – and even worse the term nigger being met with silent acceptance.
Referring to upcoming Brexit negotiations, Tory MP Anne Marie Morris said: “Now we get to the real nigger in the woodpile which is in two years what happens if there is no deal?”
The comments were recorded while she appeared on a panel at the East India Club, alongside Bill Cash and John Redwood who are also MPs for the Conservatives and neither of which object to her use of language in the recording.
Following calls for her to resign or for May should take action, Morris has issued an apology stating that “the comment was totally unintentional” and that she apologises “unreservedly for any offence caused”.
However is it acceptable to classify such a comment as unintentional given the nature of what was said? Not only was the word nigger said comfortably, she is also using a 19th century idiom referring to fugitive slaves hiding after escaping plantations – hardly an everyday phrase that trips off the tongue easily. Nowhere in her statement did she actively condemn the use of such unacceptable language.
This isn’t even the first time that the Tories have been caught using this exact saying – in 2008 David Cameron stood by a Conservative spokesman who used it in a Parliamentary debate, in 1993 the Tory Prime Minister John Major used the term when discussing problems with converting to the euro, and Corbyn voted to make another Conservative MP apologise for using the phrase on television that same year.
In the wake of the Tories plummeting poll ratings, Morris’ comments highlight that the party has a long way to go to prove they are not “nasty”.