Labour is to withdraw and destroy an election leaflet that made pledges about “dealing with Traveller incursions” after criticism over its use by a senior MP.
Charlotte Nichols, the shadow minister for women and equalities, said she wanted to “unreservedly apologise” for the offence and hurt she had caused to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
The MP tweeted pictures on Thursday of herself and activists distributing the leaflet for upcoming local elections in her Warrington North constituency in Cheshire.
But after being challenged on social media, she initially said she was not aware of the meaning of “incursion” or its negative connotation and that the party was sourcing new materials.
She said on Friday morning that she could “understand concerns raised about the language” used in the leaflet, adding that the terminology around “incursions” appeared to be widely used in legal and local government contexts and she was unaware of its “problematic definition”.
After the criticism continued, Nichols tweeted a fresh statement hours later in which she unreservedly apologised, adding: “I have spoken to the local Labour party, the leaflet has been withdrawn and the leaflet will be destroyed. I regret that this leaflet has been distributed in the town. The leaflet is not in line with my personal values or those of the Labour party.”
The leaflet had been criticised by Labour members as well as others including the Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, who said: “This is vile and obviously racist (‘dealing with Traveller incursions’).”
In a tweet directed at the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, he asked: “How widespread is this kind of language in local Labour campaigns? Condemn this leaflet, apologise and take appropriate disciplinary action.”
Laura Pidcock, the national secretary of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity campaign group and a former Labour MP for North West Durham, described the leaflets as a “disgrace” at a time when the government was pushing through legislation aimed specifically at Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.
The Guardian has asked the Labour party if the language in the leaflet was being used in other areas.