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Government Fends Off Patel Criticism

"Priti Patel Covid-19 Press Conference 25/04" by UK Prime Minister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A Cabinet Minister has defended the Home Secretary following outrage regarding her position on England players taking the knee.

Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, defended Home Secretary Priti Patel while making the television rounds today. He argued that Ms Patel had herself been racially abused and had a strong record on tackling the racism.

Before the Euro 2020 tournament began, Ms Patel had called the decision of the English national team to take the knee before matches “gesture politics”.

Credit: Boris Johnson Twitter

At the time, the Home Secretary said on GB News: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics to a certain extent.

“It’s all well to support a cause and, you know, make your voices heard, but actually, quite frankly, and we saw last year in particular with some of the protests that took place, I speak now very much from what I saw and the impact on policing. It was devastating.”

Following the defeat of the English team by Italy in the final of the competition, several of the England players were racially abused, including Marcus Rashford, Jayden Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

This led the Home Secretary to tweet out against the attacks on the players. She said:

“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.”

This message against racism was met with hostility by those who accused the Home Secretary of double standards because of the lack of support given to players taking the knee.

Among the critics of Ms Patel was England centre-back Tyrone Mings. He responded to Ms Patel’s tweet by saying:

“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.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel – Picture by Pippa Fowles – No 10 Downing Street – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

This led Mr Barclay to defend Ms Patel on Sky News. He said:

“The Home Secretary has repeatedly taken a stand against racism… with respect, the Home Secretary herself has been the subject of appalling online racist abuse. She herself has been on the receiving end of this. She has consistently condemned racist abuse online, and she has taken action, as Home Secretary, against some of the extreme right-wing groups that are responsible for this…”

Since the final of the Euros tournament, Ms Patel has announced that the Home Office would be banning the white supremacist group ‘The Base’. People could be sentenced to up to fourteen years in prison for joining the group.

She announced on Twitter:

“I’m committed to making it as difficult as possible for these evil white supremacist groups to operate in the UK – both by banning them and increasing the penalties for membership or support – so that we can protect the public and our national security.”

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