'Total hypocrites': Johnson and Patel blasted by Labour over condemnation of racist abuse

12 July 2021, 12:13

Angela Rayner has hit out at Boris Johnson and Priti Patel
Angela Rayner has hit out at Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have been branded "total hypocrites" by deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner for condemning the racist abuse directed at some of England's footballers.

The Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster blasted the prime minister and home secretary, claiming their past actions and words "gave licence to the racists". 

Ms Rayner accused the Conservative leadership of hypocrisy for speaking out against the abuse now, having not previously criticised fans who booed the players for taking the knee during the Euros.

She also compared the pair to "arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on".

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She wrote on Twitter: "Let me be clear. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary gave license to the racists who booed the England players and are now racially abusing England players.

"@BorisJohnson and @pritipatel are like arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on.

"Total hypocrites."

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On Monday, Mr Johnson said the England team "deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media", adding that those responsible for the "appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves".

Meanwhile, the home secretary wrote on Twitter: "I am disgusted that @England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media.

"It has no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable."

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Both Tory ministers have recently shown a lack of support for the England team's decision to take a knee before matches - a move that the players have explicitly said is in opposition to racism.

The prime minister did tell supporters not to boo the gesture last month, however this came after he had previously failed to criticise fans who jeered the move.

Likewise, Ms Patel once described taking the knee as "gesture politics" and said England supporters had a "choice" to boo players for the protest if they wanted to.

She also told LBC in February that she does not support taking the knee for Black Lives Matter protests.

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Elsewhere, another Conservative MP has apologised after suggesting Marcus Rashford should have spent more time "perfecting his game" than "playing politics".

Natalie Elphicke made the comment in a WhatsApp message to fellow MPs after Rashford's penalty miss.

She said: "I applaud the England team who gave their all in Euro 2020. Last night I shared the frustration and heartbreak of millions of other England fans.

"I regret messaging privately a rash reaction about Marcus Rashford's missed penalty and apologise to him for any suggestion that he is not fully focussed on his football.

"Onwards to the World Cup and I look forward to Marcus Rashford's contribution at that time."

Commenting on the Tory MP's message, Ms Rayner said: "While the country was commiserating our great team, Tory MPs were sneering at an inspirational player who stepped up to feed hungry kids when they voted to leave them without food.

“Whether it’s their failure to support the vulnerable, or booing our boys after they have done our whole country proud, the Nasty Party is back.

“The question every Conservative MP needs to answer is – did they call out these appalling comments?

"And after his failure to support our players in their stance against racism, Boris Johnson must publicly condemn these disgraceful messages.

"Whose side is he on, the lion hearts on the pitch or the Tory MPs who attack them.”

Meanwhile, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: "The horrific racist abuse of the England penalty-takers had a disappointing inevitability to it.

"Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have the means to stop this hatred on their platforms and yet they decide to do nothing.

"Meanwhile, the government's long-promised Online Safety Bill has yet again been delayed, with progress unlikely to get under way until after the summer.

"No-one should have to put up with this abuse online, social media companies' self-regulation has to end and instead we need tough new laws.

"The prime minister has previously done no more than turned a blind eye to racism against our players. Warm words and gigantic England flags are no substitute for using the power he has, to make it stop."