Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett wrote last night: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.”
He received a fierce backlash from both Conservative and Labour MPs and has since deleted the message and apologised.
Mr Beckett is running in the battle to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite which is Britain’s biggest trade union and the Labour Party’s biggest donor.
The left-winger, who sits on Labour’s ruling national executive committee, has now been suspended by the party.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “This is vile. This should play no part in Labour – or in British politics.”
Tory MP Steve Baker said it was “an extraordinary, absolutely intolerable remark” which must have a “robust response” from Labour.
Chris Clarkson, Conservative MP for Heywood and Middleton, said: “Despicable, dog-whistle comment from a member of Labour’s NEC and aspirant next General Secretary of Unite. Hastily deleted, but we all saw it and we all see you, Howard.”
Labour’s Florence Eshalomi added: “I disagree with the Home Secretary on most issues but your earlier tweet was wrong. Racism is wrong.”
Her colleague Charlotte Nichols added: “This tweet is grim.”
In a thinly veiled swipe, Labour’s Navendu Mishra added: “Racism is unacceptable under any circumstances. We don’t beat racism by being racist towards people we disagree with. I am proud of my heritage so should everyone.”
Police Scotland released the Indian nationals after people surrounded the immigration enforcement van and prevented it from leaving on Thursday.
He later apologised but claimed the Home Secretary was deporting Muslim refugees on Eid al Fitr, adding: “I’m very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim Refugees being deported on the morning of Eid al Fitr.”
He said his earlier message was “never intended to be literal” and “the wording was wrong” and “offensive”. He also apologised “unreservedly” to Ms Patel.
It is understood neither of the men involved in the situation in Glasgow is Muslim.