It was reported Monday that a U.K. politician used the expression “nigger in the woodpile” during a meeting about Brexit. She was later suspended by her party that same day.
Anne Marie Morris, a member of Parliament and the country’s right-wing Conservative Party, had used the offensive figure of speech in the presence of her fellow Conservative politicians when discussing the possibility of the U.K. leaving the European Union without a deal.
“Now I’m sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that,” Morris said in a recording posted by Huffington Post, “but my response and my request is look at the detail, it isn’t all doom and gloom.”
She then added “Now we get to the real nigger in the woodpile, which is, in two years what happens if there is no deal?” .
The expression possibly originated from a practice that involved enslaved African-Americans hiding in piles of wood in their attempts to escape slavery. The saying itself means “something (as a concealed motive or obscure factor) contrary to appearances in a situation,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Another definition of the term refers to Black people being burnt on woodpiles during the time of enslavement.
Morris apologized for her remarks Monday, describing them as “totally unintentional.”
She said to the BBC, “I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused.”
There had been many calls for Morris’ removal, especially from the Labour Party, the chief political rivals of the Conservatives. “I’m absolutely appalled by this. I assume PM will take appropriate action?” tweeted Tulip Siddiq, a Labour politician. Andrew Gwynne, another Labour lawmaker, called Morris’ comments “outrageous and completely unacceptable,” according to the BBC.
In response to the comment, the U.K. prime minister, Theresa May, said she was “shocked” by Morris’ language and deemed it “unacceptable.” “Language like this has absolutely no place in politics or in today’s society,” May said in a statement. May also requested for Morris to be suspended.