Labour has suspended a leadership candidate for the Unite trade union from the party after he called for the home secretary, Priti Patel, to be deported on Twitter.
Howard Beckett, the union’s assistant general secretary and a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), has since apologised and deleted the message following criticism.
The tweet, in response to an attempt to deport two asylum seekers in Glasgow, read: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees.
“She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.”
Asked about the tweet, a Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour party takes these allegations extremely seriously and appropriate action will be taken.” It was later reported that he had been suspended.
Gurinder Singh Josan, a member of Labour’s NEC who is also a Unite member, wrote in response: “Howard showing his true colours? I totally disagree on pretty much everything with Priti Patel but this is simply dog whistle racism against a woman of colour. Delete this now!’
Beckett subsequently tweeted: “My earlier tweet, deleted after half an hour, was never intended to be literal.
“My intention was to emphasise that racist policies should be rejected & have no place in society.
“The wording was wrong, offensive & I apologise unreservedly to Priti Patel. No one should be deported.”
The row was triggered by two men who were detained by UK Immigration Enforcement being released back into their community in Glasgow after a day of protest.
Police Scotland intervened to free the men after a standoff between immigration officials and hundreds of local residents, who surrounded their van in a residential street on the southside of Glasgow to stop the detention of the men during Eid al-Fitr.
Beckett is one of four candidates in the running to replace Len McCluskey who is due to stand down as Unite leader later this year.
The race to succeed him was launched last month and the new general secretary will be in place by September following an election. The runner-up in a 2017 leadership race, Gerard Coyne, is standing against union officials Steve Turner, Sharon Graham and Beckett.