Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have been accused of “stoking” the actions of a “vocal minority” after England football players were racially abused following their Euro 2020 final defeat.
After the Three Lions’ penalty shootout heartbreak on Sunday night, those players who missed penalties – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – have been subjected to racist abuse on social media.
Although both the prime minister and the home secretary immediately condemned the abuse, Mr Johnson and Ms Patel’s previous comments have been put under close scrutiny following the racism suffered by England’s players.
One member of the England squad, defender Tyrone Mings, directly challenged Ms Patel over her pre-tournament suggestion that the players’ decision to take the knee prior to games was “gesture politics”.
The home secretary also claimed England fans had a “choice” over whether or not to boo players as they made their protest.
The Aston Villa player accused Ms Patel of “stoking the fire” ahead of Euro 2020 with her comments on the side’s anti-racism protest.
And Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Sky News on Tuesday she agreed with Mings’s accusation.
“The people who are responsible are the people who do it and we shouldn’t let them off the hook,” she said.
“But I do agree with him [Mings] and I agree with Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative Party chairman, when she said if you blow the dog whistle, the dogs will bark.
“She said that directly to the home secretary.
“It’s appalling we have a home secretary and a prime minister who try to take their cue straight from the Donald Trump playbook and stir up division and stoke division right when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.
“We’ve never needed to come together more. We had this amazing moment on Sunday – okay, the result was not exactly what we all wanted to see, but we made the final.
“In the middle of a pandemic, this was a moment that the whole nation should have been lifted and, instead, because of the actions of a vocal minority, stoked by senior politicians, we saw the worst of those values on display.”
Prior to Euro 2020, Mr Johnson told England fans not to boo footballers taking the knee.
But it came after he had previously failed to criticise supporters who jeered the protest against racial injustice.
And Ms Nandy said both the prime minister and Ms Patel needed to “stop fanning the flames of division”.
“Not only have we seen some appalling rhetoric from the home secretary and the prime minister in the run-up to this tournament, suggesting it was acceptable to boo England players who are taking a stance against racism,” she added.
“But the prime minister has form on this. He wrote a piece in 2018 comparing Muslim women to letter boxes and we saw a 375% increase in hate crime directed towards the Muslim population in Britain.
“Action has consequences.”
Mr Johnson has told those who racially abused England players to “crawl back under the rock from which you emerged”, while Ms Patel has urged social media companies to do more to prevent “sickening racist abuse”.
And a senior government minister has sought to defend the home secretary in the wake of Mings’s accusation.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay told Sky News on Tuesday: “The home secretary has repeatedly taken a stand against racism.
“The home secretary herself has been the subject of appalling online racist abuse.
“She has consistently condemned racist abuse online and she has taken action as home secretary against some of the extreme right-wing groups that are responsible for this.”
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