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Matt Hancock today accused Labour MPs of playing “identity politics” as he gave a fierce defence of his colleague Priti Patel.

Home Secretary Ms Patel said she would “not be silenced” after dozens of Labour MPs accused her of “gaslighting” other ethnic minorities when she spoke out about her own experiences of racism.

Asked about the row in the daily Downing Street briefing, Health Secretary Mr Hancock said: “Of course Priti Patel was not wrong to talk of her personal experiences of racism.

“I have seen this letter and I abhor this divisive identity politics that’s being levelled at Priti Patel.

(PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

“I am incredibly proud to be part of the most diverse government in history.

“I am very proud to be part of that with Priti and Rishi [Sunak] and Alok [Sharma] and Nadhim [Zahawi] and Kemi [Badenoch] and Ranil [Jayawardena] and James [Cleverly] and Suella [Braverman] and all the rest.

“We don’t think that there’s such a thing as the wrong type of BAME, we think that people are equal.

“That’s what we need to see as a society, everybody seeing others as equal.”

A group of 32 Labour MPs wrote to Ms Patel today saying she should “consider the impact” she had on black communities when she refuted criticism over her comments on Black Lives Matter protests.

Labour’s Naz Shah penned the letter which said Ms Patel was not “an authority on all forms of racism”.

It said: “We write to you as Black Asian and Ethnic Minority Labour MPs to highlight our dismay at the way you used your heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by Black people and communities across the UK.

“We all have our personal stories, of the racism that we have faced, whether it has been being defined by the colour of our skin or the faith we choose to believe in.

“We ask you to reflect on your words and to consider the impact it had towards black communities in the UK trying to highlight their voices against racism.”

But the Home Secretary accused Labour MPs of “dismissing the contributions of those who don’t conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave”.

The row was sparked after Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi suggested Ms Patel had failed to understand the “anger and frustration” felt by people of colour when she criticised “thuggery” during violent skirmishes at Black Lives Matter protests last weekend.

Ms Patel told MPs in the Commons: “Well, on that basis, it must have been a very different Home Secretary who as a child was frequently called a Paki in the playground, a very different Home Secretary who was racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career.”