Boris Johnson and co chose to start a culture war. Now they've lost it after public backlash against racist abuse of England players – Ian Murray MP

I have very fond memories of the end of the summer school term. If I wasn’t taking my pet hamster into class or helping teachers build model railways, I was thrashing them at pool or at school camp.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 4:55 am
A mural of England footballer Marcus Rashford, which was defaced by vandals as he and other players were subjected to racist abuse, has attracted a huge amount of messages of goodwill from the public (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

At parliament, the last week of term is normally used for the government to tie up loose ends with the final day to publish an enormous amount of controversial ministerial statements. It’s known as “take out the trash” day for a reason.

This year has been different with masses of controversial legislation and votes brought to parliament. I guess the government think that the public may forget about them over the summer.

By the end of the week, we will have had the shameful vote to reduce the overseas aid budget, a bill to implement another reorganisation of the NHS an immigration bill that repudiates our obligations to those most in need and in danger, and a “freedom of speech” bill designed to allow those who wish to stoke division and hate the ability to take organisations to court if they are not given a platform. Not to mention the new law to make it more difficult for the public to vote.

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Of course, parliament should be productive right up to the last bell, but it is infuriating that these dreadful proposed laws don’t seem to fit with the current public mood.

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Euro 2020 final: Boris Johnson condemns racist abuse of England football players...

Who would think it a good idea to reorganise the NHS at a time when we need it to be supported to clear the Covid backlog, making it harder for people to vote when we should be encouraging maximum participation, turning away those most in need when we should be welcoming them with open arms, cutting aid when we should be maximising our ability to help the poorest countries vaccinate and recover from the pandemic?

Getting the national mood wrong is no more apparent than in the PM’s attitude to the England football team.

It doesn’t matter whether you wanted them to win spectacularly on Sunday or lose cataclysmically, we can all agree that the team and management have done something quite special away from the pitch.

They are an easy team to like. Whether it be taking a stand against racism, running successful campaigns to feed hungry children or setting up community organisations to help those most in need, they project as superb role models.

Not according to the PM’s government. They claim the team are merely involved in “gesture politics” and those that boo their stance against racism are not to be condemned. The PM, his Cabinet and MPs are wrong.

The public response to the vile racism directed at the three black players who missed their penalties shows us that the overwhelming majority of the public disagrees with the PM and supports those that want to change society for the better.

I could say, of course, that the PM putting a hastily purchased England top over his shirt and tie is the very definition of “gesture politics”.

There are few moments in history where there are opportunities to make lasting change. This is one of them and the PM has missed it. He’s started a culture war instead and I’m glad he has lost.

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