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Priti Patel Accused Of "Dog Whistle" Politics After Failing To Condemn Booing Of England Players

4 min read

The Home Secretary has been accused by former Tory minister Sayeeda Warsi of fueling "culture wars" in the wake of racist abuse aimed at England players.

It comes after ministers expressed "disappointment and horror" over a wave of racist abuse targeted at England's black players following the team's defeat against Italy on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have all been targeted with racist messages on social media after missing penalty shots in last night's final, with the Metropolitan Police saying the "totally unacceptable" posts would be investigated.

In a tweet on Monday morning, the Prime Minister said: "This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.

"Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves."

But Johnson has already faced criticism for previously failing to give his backing to the players for taking the knee at the beginning of each of their games in protest at racism.

Speaking after some England fans had booed the move during their early games, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister refused to condemn the behaviour, saying he backed "individuals' right to protest".

Home Secretarty Priti Patel who also refused to condemn England fans who booed the move, has now expressed her distaste at subsequent racist abuse of players.

"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," Patel tweeted on Monday. 

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

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, criticised Patel's statement, suggesting her previous refusal to condemn fans booing the gesture "gave license" to the abuse.

She tweeted: "Do you think that the Home Secretary being on the same side as the racists when the players were taking a knee to stand up against racism might possibly have had something to do with the racisms that the England players receive by giving license to those who abuse them?"

And ex-Tory party chair Baroness Warsi said the party had to "think about our role in feeding this culture in our country.

"If we 'whistle' & the 'dog' reacts we can't be shocked if it barks and bites. It's time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division," she tweeted.

"Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations."

Meanwhile, Tory MP Natalie Elphicke faced further anger after leaked messages from a Conservative WhatsApp group revealed she had suggested England star Marcus Rashford should have spent more time practising football than campaigning for free school meals during the pandemic.

The message, published by GB News, showed the Dover and Deal MP telling her colleagues: "They lost - would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time play politics."

But the comments were leapt on by fellow Conservative MP Simon Hoare, who tweeted in response: "Would it be ungenerous? Yes. Unwarranted? Yes. Wrong? Yes."

While Labour leader Keir Starmer said: "The entire England team have brought us together and given us memories that will last a lifetime.

"They represent the best of us.

"Anyone racially abusing them is a disgrace and doesn't represent us at all. More can and must be done to stop online abuse."

Speaking on Monday morning, health minister Edward Argar told Sky News he was "disappointed" by the abuse as he claimed the government's new online harms legislation would go further to protect people from online abuse.

"We are bringing forward at the moment measures in our Online Harms Bill to strengthen how internet and social media platforms behave and their responsibilities to take action against this sort of behaviour," he told Sky News.

"It would be further strengthening because, as I say, the police are already investigating, so they are already looking into possible offences committed here.

"But what we’re doing is moving forward with that and I've already been in touch this morning with the Culture Secretary about this and I know he shares my disappointment and horror at the way people have behaved at this moment."

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said they were "aware of a number of offensive and racist social media comments directed towards footballers following the Euro 2020 final.

"This abuse is totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated."

In a statement, the FA said: "The FA strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media. We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team.

"We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible."

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