Johnny Mercer became the latest Conservative petition to speak out about the party’s role in stoking the fire in Britain’s culture war.
The MP for Plymouth Moor View, who stepped down as veterans minister in April, spoke out after England players were subjected to racist abuse after the Euro2020 final defeat.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all failed from the spot on Sunday night as England went down on penalties.
The trio’s social media pages were quickly flooded with racist comments, leading many to condemn the “disgusting behaviour”.
Taking to Twitter last night Tyrone Mings pointed the finger at the UK government for stoking the sentiment.
He hit out at home secretary Priti Patel after she called taking the knee “gesture politics”, saying:
“You don’t get to stoke the fire and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens,” after she posted her outrage at the racist abuse.
Gary Neville also called out top government officials during an interview, saying:
“It starts at the very top and so for me, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that I woke up this morning to those headlines.
“I expected that the minute the three players that missed miss. The fact of the matter is there is an issue obviously in football there is an issue in society where we feel it’s acceptable basically to criticise players for sporting actions because of the colour of their skin.”
Tory Party politicians have also broken rank to speak out on the matter.
Baroness Warsi called on her Conservative colleagues to consider their role in feeding racism in the UK, saying:
“If we “whistle” and the ”dog” reacts we can’t be shocked if it barks and bites.
“It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division. Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations.”
Mercer also spoke out, backing Mings’ criticism of Priti Patel and saying he can’t stay silent on the matter.
Nothing I haven’t said before. I am very uncomfortable with some of my colleagues and their unnecessary interventions. https://t.co/ukXfvU0vLC
— Johnny Mercer (@JohnnyMercerUK) July 12, 2021
Calls for the home secretary to resign have been making the rounds on social media today.
Priti Patel has to go.
— Dr Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) July 12, 2021
It comes after she said fans were well within their rights to boo players taking the knee after jeers could be heard in England’s opener against Croatia.
“I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics,” she told broadcaster GB News.
She said it was “all well to support a cause and make your voices heard” but with regards to the BLM protests that have taken place in the UK, “the impact on policing… it was devastating”.
“I just don’t subscribe to this view that we should be rewriting our history – pulling down statues, the famous Colston statue, and what’s happened there.
“Toppling statues is not the answer: it’s about learning from our past, learning from our history and actually working together to drive the right outcome.”
The home secretary also refused to be pulled on questions over whether she would boo the England team herself.
Asked whether England fans had a right to boo England’s national team, she said: “That’s a choice for them quite frankly. I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that.”
Related: Petition to ban racists from football matches in England passes 500k signatures