Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for failing to condemn the booing of the England team at the Euros after Keir Starmer told him he is on the “wrong side of culture war”.
Sir Keir’s accusation was in reference to comments made by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said it was for fans to decide whether they heckle or protest against players who chose to take the knee before games to protest racism – something the prime minister failed to reprimand.
The explosive edition of PMQs came after several players were subjected to appalling racism in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all having their pages flooded with abusive comments.
Labour leader Keir Starmer accuses government of stoking a culture war around the England team and then realising “they’re on the wrong side”— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) July 14, 2021
PM Boris Johnson says MPs are united in admiration for the players and “we stick up for them”#PMQs https://t.co/nHLBsuNjBl pic.twitter.com/RQHWZLT4HR
“We could all see what’s happened here. The government has been trying to stoke a culture war and they’ve realised they’re on the wrong side, and now they’re hoping nobody has noticed,” Starmer told MPs.
“Why else would a Conservative MP boast that he’s not watching his own team? Why else would another Conservative MP say that Marcus Rashford spends too much time playing politics when he’s actually trying to feed children that the government won’t?
“And why will the prime minister refuse time and time again – even now – to condemn those who boo our players for standing up against racism?
“Nobody defends booing the England side,” Johnson replied – something his critics pointed out was not true.
You can now add gaslighting to the culture war playbook pic.twitter.com/hnX1pOTc3q— Oli Dugmore (@OliDugmore) July 14, 2021
The belated outcry from both the home secretary and Boris Johnson against the online attacks on the three black footballers was also a feature of Starmer’s criticism.
“Far from giving racism the red card, the prime minister gave it the green light,” he told MPs.
Johnson refused to accept Starmer’s accusation that he had incited a “culture war”, saying: “We stick up for them and what we’re doing is taking practical steps to fight racism – changing the football banning regime, fining the online companies, and we will use more legislation if we have to – just as we used the threat of legislation to stop the European Super League.
“I don’t want to engage in a political culture war of any kind, I want to get on with delivering for the people of this country.”
The prime minister then announced plans to ban those who had engaged in racism online from coming to football games in England.
Johnson also warned social media companies on Tuesday of considerable fines for allowing people to post racist comments unsanctioned, which they will be subject to under the Online Harms Bill.
This comes after petition to ban racists from all football matches in England for life surpassed one million signatures.
No brainer. I am not even English and I feel incredibly proud of this England team.— Chris Minnoch (@ChrisLAPG) July 12, 2021
Football Association AND Oliver Dowden Sec of State DCMS. PM Boris Johnson: Ban racists for life from all football matches in England* – Sign the Petition! https://t.co/MfEsh3r5RL via @UKChange
Set up by fans, who call themselves #TheThreeHijabis, the petition called on the Football Association and government to work together to ban those who carried out racial abuse online and offline.