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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Are government ministers stoking racism?

Personally, I have no problem with sports personalities getting involved in politics. They have a voice, a ready audience and they live in the same society as we do. Their views are as valid as the next person's and they are entitled to use the platform they have to express them. And like everybody else I am full of admiration for the work being carried out and the example set by the likes of Marcus Rashford and many of his colleagues.

What I have never understood is why government ministers are so uncomfortable with all of this. Yes, they are being held to account for their own inaction, but that's politics. Is it because these footballers are doing their job for them?

The worst of this however, is the hypocrisy of ministers who criticise footballers for expressing their opposition to racism by taking the knee at football matches, endorse fans who boo this gesture, and then get all preachy when a small minority of fans show their true colours as violent, racist thugs.

The footballer, Tyrone Mings summed this up in a tweet yesterday in response to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. As the Guardian reports, Mings said Patel had “stoke(d) the fire” after she previously refused to criticise fans who booed the team for taking the knee in protest against racial injustice:

He said: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens.”

Mings’ condemnation of Patel was backed by the former Conservative minister Johnny Mercer, who tweeted: “The painful truth is that this guy is completely right. Very uncomfortable with the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into. Do I fight it or stay silent? Modern Conservatism was always so much more to me. We must not lose our way.”

The paper says that the former Tory party chairwoman Lady Warsi also criticised Patel after her tweet:

“It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division,” the Conservative peer tweeted. “Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations.”

The former footballer Marvin Sordell, who said racism was a “big factor” in his retirement from the sport, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “[Mings] has every right to be angry, just as I am, just as I’m sure millions of people are across this country as well.

“Because there was a massive opportunity to show strong leadership at that point. And I think it was very clear at that point, it was very clear before that, that players taking the knee wasn’t anything more than them trying to raise awareness for a topic that has again come up.”

And of course Boris Johnson's record on this subject is pretty chequered as well:

The former England defender Gary Neville joined those questioning Boris Johnson’s authority on the subject of racism, telling Sky News: “The prime minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players [taking the knee] who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism. It starts at the very top. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that I woke up to those headlines; I expected it the minute the three players missed.”

Neville omits to mention the many other occasions Johnson has engaged in racist language, calling gay men "bumboys," comparing Muslim women to "letterboxes", using a column to label black Africans "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles", and suggesting that Malaysian women only go to university "to find men to marry."

If this country has a problem with race then it is not being helped by a number of UK Ministers who actively court racists through their language and their actions.
Whilst Patel is in the headlights we must not forget Johnson has form.HE MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH HIS RESPONSIBILITY ON THIS SUBJECT.His u-turns should not absolve him from this
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