By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
Diane Abbott was forced to apologise today after she tweeted that "white people love playing 'divide and rule'".
The tweet came in response to a message from another user, as the Labour front bencher discussed the sentencing of Stephen Lawrence killers Gary Dobson and David Norris.
It instantly caused uproar online, as commentators and politicians seized on the tweet as evidence of racist attitudes.
"I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people," she said.
"I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused."
A Labour spokesperson also apologised for the tweet, saying: "We disagree with Diane’s tweet. It is wrong to make sweeping generalisations about any race, creed, or culture."
The apology came after a bizarre interview on Sky News in which Ms Abbott started to discuss the quote before receiving a phone call and walking away from the camera. Some media sources said the call came directly from Ed Miliband.
Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi wrote: "A healthy society should not tolerate any form of racism. [Diane Abbott] should apologise and resign or [Ed Miliband] must sack her.
"[Diane Abbott] of all people should lead by example. Must resign."
The tweet was sent last night but it remained undeleted this morning.
She wrote: "Tweet taken out of context. Refers to nature of 19th century European colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters."
Nick Clegg branded the comment "crass and stupid".
"The sentiment is daft but sticking it on Twitter - a public forum - is dafter still. Expect better from my MP," one Twitter user wrote.
Elsewhere in the tweets, Ms Abbott said: "Ethnic communities that show more public solidarity and unity than black people do much better.
"I am not talking cultural differences. I am talking political tactics."
The development is particularly embarrassing for Ed Miliband, who relies on Ms Abbott for his health portfolio. Yesterday she was on the airwaves commenting on the ongoing PIP breast implant row.
It also comes at a particularly damaging time, with Labour hoping to make political capital out of Tory MP Aiden Burley's involvement in a French police investigation after he attended a party where friends dressed in Nazi SS uniforms. It will now be much harder for Mr Miliband to attack the Conservatives over Mr Aiden's legal difficulties.
Ms Abbott was previously in hot water when she claimed "blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls" would make unsuitable nurses in her local area because they had "never met a black person before".
Some years earllier she said: "I’m a West Indian mum and West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children".