Claudia Webbe MP who was convicted of Harassment in November 2021, has had her suspended sentence reduced to 80 hours community service. It also emerged during the appeal, that vital evidence was withheld that would have shone a different light on the original case.
Campaigners say the silence in mainstream media about the hidden evidence and subsequent reduced sentence is proof of racially biased reporting. In addition, the Labour party, who immediately suspended Ms Webbe (a Corbyn supporter) when the case was brought, did nothing to protect one of its female MP’s, leading to suspicions amongst some, of a Corbynite purge within the party.
Campaigners for Claudia Webbe say they are appalled at the underlying connotations of the case where mainstream media and the court failed to take into account Ms Webbe’s personal character, professional reputation, long public service and clean record when making judgement.
A collective response from Webbe supporters is that the case – and the media coverage that followed - had a racial bias that automatically favoured a white woman whilst painting a stereotypical ‘angry black woman’ image of Ms Webbe, in an attempt to ‘ghettoise’ her.
Claudia Webbe is a respectable MP, and long serving politician.
But Ms Webbe made headlines in the autumn of 2021 when she allegedly threatened Michelle Merritt, a woman accused of having an affair with Lester Thomas, Ms Webbes’ partner at the time.
The court heard that Ms Webbe engaged in a string of phone calls with her so called ‘love rival’ where she allegedly threatened to share sexual images and was also accused of threatening Ms Merrit with acid.
Accusations that were vehemently denied by Ms Webbe but promoted by Mainstream media such as the Daily Mail who focused their headlines on the alleged acid threat.
The appeal process revealed there was withheld evidence and showed no evidence of the alleged threats. The only evidence presented was content on Ms Merritt’s phone which heard Claudia Webbe demanding Ms Merritt stay away from her relationship with Thomas.
One of Claudia’s supporters who have known her for over 30 years, told us that the alleged profanities and threats are completely out of character for Claudia, adding that the court received, and ignored a large number of support letters attesting to her good character:
"The people who know her know she doesn't swear and wouldn't be using language like that. Claudia has a number of people who would vouch for her use of language, and character as evidenced with the number of support letters received by the court.
The mistake to ghettoise her was incorrect.
The police did not give the evidence from the woman’s phone. Why would you withhold evidence in such an important case? There is also no evidence whatsoever of the alleged acid threat. [Ms Merritt] didn't give any evidence on what she (Claudia) was accused of."
Supporters of Ms Webbe say the case only caused such an uproar, reaching the headlines because she is a black Labour MP and a Corbynite.
“Think of all the unjust things that have happened amongst white male MPs across political parties. Crimes have been committed. But are these white men in power immediately suspended?”
Notably, the mainstream media have not reported on the reduced sentence with the same vigour as the original reports. Speaking on the media portrayal of the case, a supporter said:
“This is yet another instance that shows high profile black women are not supported no matter who they are. There are always counterparts set on our destruction. That is just the harsh reality of it.”
Indeed, from politicians to royalty, we see a discriminatory bias reserved for high profile black women.
Think of the likes of Diane Abbott MP, a long serving politician who faces daily racist and misogynistic abuse, and regular ridicule in the mainstream media. Or cast your mind back to recent media bias around the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and the scrutiny she faced from the British mainstream media just for being a black woman who married into the Royal family.
The scrutiny her child faced just for existing, allegedly being likened to an ape, the letters they dug up from her estranged father.
As a black individual I was disappointed but by no means surprised at how Meghan was scrutinised. Or how she was portrayed like a black widow spider, who captures and devours her prey – Prince Harry. As you would expect, that treatment and publicity, most definitely took a toll on her mental health.
In contrast, Meghan’s sister-in-law Kate Middleton was welcomed with open arms by the media. The treatment Meghan has suffered is beyond ridiculous, downright racist and as queer black feminist Moya Bailey coined the term it is a case of “misogynoir”.
The likes of Meghan Markle, Diane Abbott and Claudia Webbe only have two obvious similarities; they are black women and they have risen to positions which are historically reserved to white people.
As a result of trailblazing and changing the hierarchical values of society they receive punishment and scrutiny on a regular basis.
It's disheartening, and in a diverse Britain, this stereotypical, borderline racist media bias must be challenged because today the media bias may surround Claudia Webbe, but tomorrow it could be me or you.