Prime Minister Boris Johnson hits back at being blamed over booing England players when challenged during Wednesday’s PMQs.
Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said Johnson tried to “stoke a culture war” by refusing to condemn fans who jeered the England team taking a knee over the last few months.
But now, he has found himself on the wrong side, suggesting the Prime Minister had treated racism as “a game”.
In response, Johnson sought to claim he had never condoned the fans’ booing, and said the rules for football banning orders would be changed.
“If you are guilty you will not be going to the match…”
The Prime Minister and Sir Kier Starmer clash in the commons about racist abuse but promise life bans for abusers and fines for social media companies if they fail to act. pic.twitter.com/iQrRVjfMDk
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 14, 2021
Devoting almost all his time at the PMQs to the issue, Starmer dismissed Johnson’s claims to have never defended the booing, saying: “The prime minister isn’t kidding anybody in this house. He’s not kidding the public, and he’s not even kidding his own MPs.”
A few exchanges followed disagreements within Tory ranks over how to respond to England footballers taking the knee before games as an anti-racism gesture, with some MPs and ministers condemning it as politicised and others disagreeing.
After three black England players who missed penalties in the final against Italy were subjected to online racist abuse, another squad member, Tyrone Mings, said messages from some politicians had helped “stoke the fire” of racism.
Referring to a quote before Euro 2020 by Priti Patel, the home secretary, Starmer asked: “Does the prime minister think that it was wrong to criticise the England team’s decision to oppose racism by taking the knee as ‘gesture politics’?”
Johnson replied by announcing the change to the banning orders, but avoided the question (shocker), simply saying the England team “do represent the very best of our country, and I repeat that I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night”.
Starmer then cited Patel, and Johnson’s spokesperson, who before the tournament defended the right of some fans to boo players if they took the knee.
“When senior government ministers and Conservative MPs defend the booing of an anti-racist message, who do they think they are defending, prime minister, and why are they defending it?” the Labour leader asked.
Johnson replied: “I have made it absolutely clear that no one should boo the England team.”
The prime minister was seeking to rewrite history, Starmer said: “Behind them they don’t believe you, and neither do we. We can all see what’s happened here. The government has been trying to stoke a culture war, and they’ve realised they are on the wrong side, now they hope that nobody has noticed.”
After Johnson replied to say: “I don’t want to engage in a political culture war of any kind,” Starmer again condemned this as fantasy.
“Football’s a game, racism isn’t,” he said. “Far from giving racism the red card, the prime minister gave it the green light.”
“We made it absolutely clear that no-one should boo the England team” – says Boris Johnson at #PMQs.
That is a blatant lie. https://t.co/KkiZP9DDji
— Sam Bright (@WritesBright) July 14, 2021
Boris Johnson said last month that he wants the “whole country” to get behind the England team but has refused to condemn those who booed players taking a knee.
Asked about the booing before England’s match against Romania at the Riverside on Sunday, the prime minister’s official spokesman seemed to offer support to both sides of an increasingly heated argument.
The prime minister “fully respects the right of those who choose to peacefully protest and make their feelings known”, the spokesman said, adding: “On taking the knee, specifically, the prime minister is more focused on action rather than gestures. We have taken action with things like the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities and that’s what he’s focused on delivering.”
Fans and Twitter users reacted as Boris Johnson hits back at being blamed over booing England players, see what was said below…
@Tillytoo1233: Priti Patel said, when asked about fans booing ” Well, that’s a choice for them, quite frankly”. 😕 So yes, perfectly clear…
@janine_shelley: “The Home Sec has experienced racism herself”. I suspect, true. But, she has certainly done her utmost to pull up the ladder after her & shows no signs of empathy or compassion for others.
@otheranthony: I know we have short memories, but man, not that short.
@ryanCRASHBURN: they can’t help but constantly gaslight. No wonder the country is in the state it’s in.
@Ram5y: @10DowningStreetthe Prime Minister should resign for his blatant lies! He’s all happy with racist rhetoric until it suits him to call it out #Disgrace #Embarassment #ResignBoris
@Kevj365: Another day, another blatant lie from @BorisJohnson
@HarryDunning: Biggest group of liars this country has ever seen
@JonquilLucy: ‘That is a blatant lie.’ Thank you for calling it what it is. @BBCPolitics discussing PMQS but not a mention of this
@MGouldthorpe1: Every single word Johnson says is a lie. The man is absolutely sickening.
@shelenaz: He made it absolutely clear that it *was * ok to boo the England team, and so did Patel 🤬
@PeterHardyAG: What a surprise liar @BorisJohnsonfound to be lying. It is almost as if he knows not how to tell the truth.
@Lulihar99: The buffoons booing the England team are his fanbase
@missus_smith: A massive big fat lie. Do they think we don’t notice?
@daihop5: Yet more #BorisTheLiar #ToryHypocrisy
— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) July 14, 2021
They absolutely, did not. https://t.co/smbKNMO9Q0
— Jd (@JoshuaLockdown) July 14, 2021
— Monsignor it’s all Corbyn’s fault. (@ItCorbyn) July 14, 2021