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Sarah Champion has resigned as Britain’s shadow equalities minister after a controversial article published in the Sun newspaper in which she wrote: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.”
The MP for Rotherham had initially tried to distance herself from the article, but she said she was concerned her position in the shadow cabinet had become a distraction.
“I apologise for the offence caused by the extremely poor choice of words in the Sun article on Friday,” she said. “I am concerned that my continued position in the shadow cabinet would distract from the crucial issues around child protection which I have campaigned on my entire political career.
“It is therefore with regret that I tender my resignation as shadow secretary of state for women and equalities.”
Ms Champion initially said her piece had been altered and should “not have gone out in my name”, but the Sun said the MP’s team had approved the piece and had emailed to say they were “thrilled” with the final version.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he had accepted her resignation. “I look forward to working together in future,” he said.
Ms Champion’s resignation came a day after 100 cross-party MPs led by the Labour MP Naz Shah wrote to the Sun to condemn an article by one of its columnists, Trevor Kavanagh, that had quoted Ms Champion on Muslim grooming gangs.
Mr Kavanagh said MPs had to tackle what he called “the Muslim problem” and that Ms Champion was one of the few politicians prepared to speak out.
Ms Champion complained about the article published under her name, saying the opening paragraph had been “stripped of nuance”.
The Sun responded with emails from the MP’s team, which said she was “thrilled” with the piece. A source at the newspaper said the MP’s office had been sent a PDF of the final print piece.
“Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and it ‘looked great’,” a spokeswoman said.
“Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new pictures for further use.”
Of the Kavanagh piece, Ms Champion said she was horrified that a “repulsive and extreme Islamophobic” column had quoted her positively. “I am ashamed that he made positive reference to my own piece. We must always stand up against racism and prejudice, whatever form it takes,” she said.
Mr Corbyn had hinted earlier on Wednesday he was uncomfortable with Ms Champion’s article, expressing support for the MPs’ letter denouncing Mr Kavanagh.
“In recent days, the Sun has published statements that incite Islamophobia and stigmatise entire communities,” he said. “That is wrong, dangerous and must be condemned, as Naz Shah’s public letter does in the clearest possible terms.”
– (Guardian service)