A journalist has been accused of racism after he posted an offensive tweet aimed at the new crop of ministers in Liz Truss's government.
Iain Macwhirter, who writes a column for Scottish newspaper The Herald, caused controversy on Twitter after he appeared to attack the new appointments in Liz Truss’s cabinet.
The roles of chancellor, foreign secretary and home secretary were filled by Kwasi Kwarteng, James Cleverly and Suella Braverman respectively – a move that received praise for bringing diversity to the great offices of state.
But Macwhirter, retweeting a picture of the three Tory MPs that highlighted their private education, tweeted: “The coconut cabinet?”
The term 'coconut' has been used to accuse Black people of being ‘white on the inside’ and ‘betraying their race’.
The tweet caused a huge backlash, with many accusing Macwhirter of racism.
Tory MSP Annie Well described it as is “absolutely disgraceful”, while Cleverly, referencing the tweet, wrote: “Wow. A lot of masks are slipping this week.”
Macwhirter, who has previously worked for the BBC, quickly deleted the tweet and shared a link to his column but was later forced to issue an apology for what he described as a “joke”.
He wrote: “Earlier, I made an ironic reference to a term used by some on the left about black people who are deemed traitors to the cause through joining the Tory Party.
“After I posted it, I realised this joke might give offence and deleted it. It was unacceptable language, wide open to misinterpretation, and I am sincerely sorry for the distress I have caused.
“I have repeatedly applauded the Conservatives for having the most diverse cabinet in British history.
“Indeed, I tweeted earlier that the Truss cabinet made the Scottish government look ‘hideously white’.
“I have always championed racial diversity in my columns and I am dismayed that my cack-handed attempt at humour suggested otherwise.”
However, the apology itself was also criticised for saying the original tweet was “ironic”.
Political commentator Adrian Hilton wrote: “I'm more astonished by the apology.
"Quite how Iain Macwhirter can say his tweet calling Black/Asian ministers 'The coconut cabinet' was ‘an ironic reference’ (as opposed to being manifestly racist) is an insult to people's intelligence.”
The Herald later confirmed that they had suspended Macwhirter, pending an investigation into the matter.
They tweeted: “We are aware of an offensive tweet by one of our freelance contributors, Iain Macwhirter.
“Although the tweet has since been deleted and an apology issued, we have also suspended his columns while we investigate further.”