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Florence Eshalomi says the frequency of these types of mistakes was ‘worrying’

An MP has revealed she has twice been mistaken for black female colleagues in Parliament in the past six months.

Florence Eshalomi became an MP for Vauxhall in south-west London following the general election in December.

Since then, other colleagues had been subjected to similar mistakes, she wrote in a letter to her constituents.

“The frequency is worrying and lends itself to a lazy racist view that all black people look the same”, she continued.

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “It is clear that racism continues to blight the lives of black people in this country.

“We are truly sorry that members of our community feel that this extends into parliament, the very place where the rights of all citizens should be championed equally.”

The Labour and Co-operative party politician’s letter stated: “On two separate occasions I have been confused for another black female MP.

“This has also happened to my black female colleagues.”

Since publishing the letter online, Ms Eshalomi said she and other colleagues had initially planned to write a letter to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle about the issue of misidentification, but said the coronavirus pandemic had delayed them.

“On the first occasion I was coming through Central Lobby, and an MP ran up to me and just broke into conversation,” the Labour MP said.

“Then she stopped herself because she released I wasn’t Kate. She thought I was Kate Osamor. She was so embarrassed she just literally ran away again.

“On the second occasion I was in the chamber… I was one of the last members to speak in the debate that day, and when I stood up to speak the caption had me down as Taiwo Owatemi, the MP for Coventry North West.”

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UK Parliament

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Marsha de Cordova (left) was mistaken for Dawn Butler (right) on BBC Parliament

Ms Eshalomi said the BBC had sent an email and apologised, but said the broadcaster told her it had used the House of Commons’ caption.

On a separate occasion in February, BBC Parliament wrongly captioned Labour MP Marsha de Cordova as Dawn Butler.

In its story about the mix-up, the London Evening Standard used a picture of Bell Ribeiro-Addy – wrongly depicting her as Ms de Cordova.

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Bell Ribeiro-Addy was wrongly captioned as Marsha de Cordova in an Evening Standard story in February

Ms Eshalomi said she had experienced such misunderstandings before too.

Having been elected in 2016 to the London Assembly, Ms Eshalomi said she was mistaken for Kemi Badenoch, who was then a fellow member of the assembly and is now a Conservative MP.

She said: “All those women I’ve referenced are individual politicians in their own right, they’re women I look up to.

“They’re women who fought to get elected. So they deserve to be named and not to be confused with other black women.

“This doesn’t happen to some of my white female colleagues, who sometimes have their hair down, sometimes they’ll have it back in a ponytail.

“So why is it, if we as black women change our hair or our appearance, you can’t recognise us?”

The Commons spokesperson added: “We are committed to listening, learning and taking action to remove barriers and better reduce inequality for the future.”

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