Anger over Keir Starmer's Bangladesh remarks as councillor quits and Labour MP candidates issue statements

Sir Keir Starmer is facing simmering anger over comments about Bangladeshi migrants made during a general election event.

Some MP candidates standing in constituencies with large Muslim populations have issued statements distancing themselves from the remarks, and the deputy leader of Tower Hamlets Labour resigned on Wednesday.

The Labour Party branded an edited video clip of the comments, which has been circulated on messaging apps, "misinformation" and said Sir Keir “proudly supports the Bangladeshi community who make an enormous contribution to our country”.

Sir Keir said in a live streamed interview with The Sun on Monday evening: "At the moment people coming from countries like Bangladesh are not being removed because they’re not being processed."

The comment was in response to questions about his criticism of the Conservative’s Rwanda migrant deportation scheme for people who arrive in the UK on small boats.

In the video, the Labour leader, said: "The number of people being returned to where they came from has dropped off by 44 per cent under this government.

"On the first few days of government, I’ll tell you what I do, I’ll put the staff back in the returns unit, I’ll make sure I’ve got planes going off, not to Rwanda because that’s an expensive gimmick."

Asked where migrants would be deported to, Sir Keir replied: "They will go back to the countries where people come from. That’s what used to happen." He then gave Bangladeshi migrants as an example.

However at no point does he say that those settled in Britain or with permission to be in the country would be returned.

The video has been shared online by people encouraging voters to support independent candidates on July 4.

Tower Hamlets councillor Sabina Akhtar, the deputy leader of the local Labour group, resigned over the comments.

"I was a proud Labour party member, but I find I cannot be proud of this party anymore when the leader singles out my community and insults my Bangladeshi identity," she said in a statement.

On Thursday Mr Starmer said he was not intending to cause offence to the Bangladeshi community.

He told reporters: “They’ve made a massive contribution to our economy, to our culture and to our country. That’s why there’s always been a longstanding and strong relationship between Labour and the Bangladeshi community here.

“It’s why my first trip as a Labour MP was to Bangladesh, where I saw for myself the strength of the country, the hospitality and warmth of the country. I’ve got many Bangladeshi constituents in my own constituency who I’ve been working with for many years, and I want to build on that in government.”

He added: “The reference in the debate the other day was an example of a country that is considered safe as far as asylum is concerned, and one of the countries that’s actually got a returns agreement with us, and that is actually a good thing where both we and Bangladesh can be proud of … I certainly wasn’t intending to cause any concern or offence to any Bangladeshi community here.”

On Wednesday, deputy leader of Tower Hamlets Labour group Sabina Akhtar resigned over Sir Keir’s comments.

Bethnal Green and Stepney candidate Rushanara Ali, who became the first British Bangladeshi MP in 2010, said: "There has been considerable concern and upset following the release of a clip of the Labour Party leader.

"I have been in close contact with his team to relay the concerns in our community. The relationship between the Labour Party, the British Bangladeshi community and Bangladesh is deeply rooted."

Apsana Begum, standing in Poplar and Limehouse, said she did not want to see "migrant communities be scapegoated".

Leader of Tower Hamlets Labour councillor, Sirajul Islam, added: "I reject the comments made over the last two days regarding Bangladeshis in the UK.

“Anti-migrant sentiment is on the rise across Europe and the Labour party should not be seeking to scapegoat any migrant communities let alone one such as the Bangladeshi community, who have made an enormous contribution to British life.

"Our residents are incredibly concerned about these comments, as are hundreds of our members and activists who are currently campaigning hard to deliver a Labour government.

"The Labour Party has always been the political home of Bangladeshis and we should be proud that seven brilliant British Bangladeshis are standing for Labour in this election.

"This is the only way Labour should be talking about Bangladeshis. I hope this will soon be corrected."

Pro-Palestinian independent candidates are standing against Labour in some areas at the general election on July 4.

Many decided to stand following anger at the party's initial response to the war in Gaza, which promoted a slew of councillor resignations and protests last year.

One Labour party source said: “These latest comments have gone down particularly badly in areas of east London where Labour candidates are having a difficult time and facing abuse. It’s also a gift to candidates like George Galloway [standing in Rochdale] and should have been picked up by the leader’s team earlier.”

A Labour spokesman said: "Keir has proudly supported the Bangladeshi community across the UK, who make an enormous contribution to our country.

"This clip has been edited to make it look as though Keir Starmer is suggesting repatriation of British Bangladeshis. It is misinformation.

"In fact, Keir is referring to Labour's long established policy of returning those who don't have the legal right to be in the UK to safe countries. Bangladesh was only used as an example, as there is already a bilateral agreement between the two countries."