Starmer: 'PM is on the wrong side of a culture war' after England players face abuse

14 July 2021, 12:33 | Updated: 14 July 2021, 13:05

By Kate Buck

Sir Keir Starmer has said the Government is on the "wrong side" of a culture war they stoked after England players faced racist abuse after the Euro 2020 final.

The England team had face boos from their own fans after taking the knee in a demonstration against racism before their matches, but Boris Johnson failed to condemn those actions.

Instead, his spokesperson said he "fully respects the rights of people to make their feelings known" - a comment which his critics argued stoked the flames of racism.

But after three Black players faced horrendous abuse, he has now announced that measures were being taken which would ban people who have committed racist abuse online from attending future football matches.

Speaking in the House of Commons during PMQs, the Labour leader said:"We can all see whats happened here, the Government has tried to stoke a culture war and they've realised that they're on the wrong side.

"And now they hope that nobody's noticed. Why else would a Conservative MP boast that he's not watching his own team?

"Why else would another Conservative MP say that Marcus Rashford spends too much time playing politics when he's actually trying to feed children that the Government won't?

"And why will the Prime Minister refuse time and time again to condemn those who boo our players who are standing up against racism?

"What is it that this England team symbolises that this Conservative Party is so afraid of?"

In response to Sir Keir's repeated questions about the Government's conduct in the lead up to Tuesday, the PM said measures were being taken which would ban people who have committed racist abuse from attending football matches.

He said: "I repeat that I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night, and so what we're doing is today is taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed, so that if you are guilty of racist abuse online of footballers, then you will not be going to the match, no ifs, no buts, no exemptions and no excuses."

Senior members of the Government have also been accused of making "dog whistle comments" and failing to slap down racism in society.

Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the social media abuse directed at England players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in the wake of Sunday's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, but was accused of having "stoked the fire" of racism in the past by their team-mate Tyrone Mings.

And Tory MP Anderson boycotted England games over players taking the knee and told LBC he was unpacking boxes instead of watching the final.

Speaking to LBC, the Ashfield MP said he will carry on with the boycott, despite Gareth Southgate's side making their first major international final since the 1966 World Cup – and only their second in history.

Instead, he will check his phone for updates and cheer them on without having the momentous final on TV.

Asked what he will do on Sunday instead of watching, he told LBC: "We've just moved house. I've got plenty of work to do in my house over the weekend, lots of boxes to unpack, plenty to be getting on with… I will be supporting the team, I want them to win, I wish them all the best.

"I hope we bring it home. I've never seen England in a final in my lifetime… fair play to them, they've had a great tournament."They've got a great set of young players, a great manager, and I think we're going to do it."