Words matter in Islamophobia row but divisive rhetoric will only get worse

It's maybe time for politicians to tone things down given the current levels of inflammatory and acrimonious debate.

Words matter in Islamophobia row but divisive rhetoric will only get worse in general election year Getty ImagesGetty Images

Every politician will tell you that “words matter”, sometimes just before they mangle them or slip easily into weaselly wording things themselves.

Last week, the row over words focussed on Labour, the SNP and the Speaker.

This week’s row stems from former Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson.

He told GB News that “Islamists” had “got control” of London mayor Sadiq Khan.

He has been suspended from the Conservative Party after refusing to apologise. Khan described the remarks as “Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist”.

It is clear that Anderson’s comments caused offence and not just to the mayor.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi chaired the Conservative Party and described the comments online as a “deliberate attack on Sadiq Khan… an attempt to stigmatise, stereotype and silence British Muslims”.

On Monday morning, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Anderson’s words were “wrong” and “unacceptable”, but Anderson is not without supporters.

Some Conservative MPs say they have had many emails backing him and the Reform Party leader Richard Tice said the comments reflected the concerns of “millions of Britons”.

All this just after things boiled over in the House of Commons last week.

The Speaker Lindsay Hoyle caused furore when he accepted a Labour amendment to an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which is not the way Westminster works.

It all blew up just after Labour’s Scottish conference had called for an immediate ceasefire, but the SNP Commons motion contained other words that the Labour leadership didn’t like.

One of the reasons the Speaker gave for his actions was security of MPs.

Given the murder of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess, both hard-working MPs attacked and killed while serving their constituents, MPs security is not something to be taken lightly.

Given how inflammatory and acrimonious political debate is, not just here but all over the world – don’t get me started on Trump – maybe it is time for politicians to tone it down a bit; but this is an election year, so that is not going to happen.

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