Tory MP admits 'it was not right' to boo taking the knee, as Mings blasts Patel

13 July 2021, 16:55

By Fiona Jones

Tory MP Simon Hoare tells LBC that he would not have supported people booing footballers taking the knee, despite Priti Patel and Boris Johnson refusing to condemn it.

It comes after England defender Tyrone Mings blasted Priti Patel for her condemnation of racial abuse after she previously called players taking the knee "gesture politics".

The Home Secretary told LBC in February that she would not take the knee in support of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, saying that "there are other ways in which people can express their opinions."

Following this the Prime Minister indicated to LBC in July 2020 that he would not take the knee as he "does not believe in gestures", but "believes in substance."

However after some members of the England squad suffered online racist abuse following the Euro 2020 final defeat, Ms Patel Tweeted: "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."

The young England star Mings replied: "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."

Shelagh asked Conservative MP Simon Hoare whether Cabinet members "gave space to racism" by their refusal to support taking the knee, to which he responded, "If I had been asked at the time are people right to boo that, I would have said no.

"When I was asked if it was right for our supporters to boo the national anthems of the opposing teams, I thought that was wrong...it's not the best of who we are. I say this as a Conservative, I have a fundamental belief in freedom of expression within the law, a freedom of association."

Shelagh questioned whether the Prime Minister's and the Home Secretary's defence for this was freedom of expression "even if they're booing anti-racist expression."

"That may very well have been," Mr Hoare said, "all I would say is, is when your national team is about to play an important match, I'm not entirely sure what it would do for their outlook and spirit and confidence to find people who are there to support them actually booing them.

"That just struck me as the most self-inflicted wound."

Shelagh asked: "Is it possible that those people booing are racists?"

"Of course it's possible," Mr Hoare said.

"Well therefore when the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are asked about those people, can't they come out with something stronger than they did?" Shelagh asked.

The MP said: "That falls into the easier media thing...for example, 'all racists voted for Brexit'. I know that's not what you say, but to suggest that everybody did something because they did it is a racist, they may very well be. We don't know."

Shelagh Fogarty read out fellow MP Johnny Mercer's tweet which was in reply to Tyrone Mings' initial message to Priti Patel.

Mr Mercer said: "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."

Simon Hoare admitted that on this occasion, he agreed with Mr Mercer on this stance: "The Tory party can't afford to fall into often a self dug trap of caricature and characterisation."