Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has criticised Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd for using the word “coloured” in a BBC interview.
Ms Abbott said the term was “outdated” and “offensive” and it was a “revealing choice of words”.
During a discussion on racism, Ms Rudd said: “It’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman. I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse.”
Ms Rudd has apologised, saying she was “mortified at my clumsy language”.
Historically, the word is associated with segregation, especially in the US, where black people where kept separate from white people – on public transport, or at drinking fountains which were described as “coloured-only” for example.
It is regarded as a highly offensive racial slur which recalls a time when casual racism was a part of everyday life.
The exchange happened during an interview on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show.
Host Jeremy Vine asked Ms Rudd: “The question is, given that all people in the public eye seem to get terrible tweets from strangers, whether it’s worse if you’re a woman?”
Ms Rudd replied: “It definitely is worse if you’re a woman, it’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman.
“I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse, that’s something we need to call out.”
But Ms Abbott responded on Twitter, saying it was a “revealing choice of words”.
Former home secretary Ms Rudd apologised on Twitter.