The tragedy of Euro 2020 was the ‘undercurrent of racism’ that was ultimately targeted towards three young England players, Boris Johnson has been told.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford raised the issue after Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were subjected to racist abuse following the final of the tournament at Wembley on Sunday, which England lost on penalties against Italy.
Blackford asked the Prime Minister what sanctions he believes would be appropriate for those who publish racist content online.
In response to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Johnson had earlier announced that his government will change football banning orders to cover online abuse.
Blackford told the Commons: “Let me begin by congratulating the England team for reaching the final, an incredible achievement.
“But, the tragedy of the tournament was the undercurrent of racism that was ultimately targeted at three young men – Rashford, Sancho and Saka.
“Wherever there is racism, it falls on all of us to face it down and to call it out.
“And it is shameful that it took until last night for the Prime Minister to meet with the main social media companies and finally wake up to the fact that those who publish and promote vile, racist, online abuse need to be faced down and sanctioned.”
Blackford also challenged Johnson over previous remarks he had made in a newspaper column in 2002.
He continued: “So, can the Prime Minister tell us, what sanctions he thinks would be appropriate for someone who publishes racist content?
“And it is shocking even to have to say this out loud, describing Africans as ‘flag-waving picaninnies with watermelon smiles?'”
Johnson responded: “I’ve commented many times about the words that I’ve said in the past and I think the House understands how you can take things out of context.
“I think people do understand that, but what they also understand is that there is a chance now to hold these internet companies to account and to make sure that they face fines running to 10% of their global income if they fail to take hate and racism off their platforms.
“And I hope actually that the Scottish nationalist party will support it.”
“I do think that racism is a problem in the United Kingdom and I believe it needs to be tackled and it needs to be stamped out.”Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The SNP’s Westminster leader said that the legacy of Johnson’s ‘dog whistling’ had followed him into Downing Street.
“Still no contrition, still no apology and the truth is that the Tory party doesn’t sanction those who publish that kind of racist content, they promote them to be Prime Minister,” said Blackford.
“The legacy of this Prime Minister’s dog whistling has followed him into 10 Downing Street and it is now at the heart of this Tory government.
“As the England international Tyrone Mings has so powerfully stated, this government doesn’t get to stoke the fires of racism and pretend to be disgusted when it happens.
“They don’t get to condemn the racism of others, but deny the racism that they have even provoked.”
He added: “In March, this UK Government’s own report on racism, the Sewell report, said that there was no systemic problem in the UK. I think the England men’s football team would beg to differ.
“After the shocking racism on show over the last week, does the Prime Minister still stand by his government’s belief that systemic racism is not a problem that exists in the United Kingdom?”
Johnson said that his party represents “hope and opportunity” for people from black and ethnic minority groups.
He responded: “I do think that racism is a problem in the United Kingdom and I believe it needs to be tackled and it needs to be stamped out with some of the means that I’ve described this morning.
“But when he attacks our party, my party, I’m afraid he’s got the wrong target. This is a party that has not only had the first ever Muslim secretary of state for health, former chancellor of course, but has had two female Prime Minister, the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this county, the most diverse government in the history of this country.
“We are the party if you are a young person growing up in a black or ethnic minority group in this country, we are the party that represent hope and opportunity, that is the reality about the Conservative party today.”