We’ve had enough of Boris Johnson’s loud-mouthed, unashamed racism


(Picture: AFP Photo/Daniel Leal Olivas/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has made a disgusting – and dangerous gamble – with his inflammatory comments about Muslim women wearing full face veils.

In doing so, he is making his case to be Britain’s Donald Trump. And it’s a cynical ploy, using his national newspaper column to openly mock Muslim women in an unprovoked attack.

He has form, though: as a journalist he mocked African children, then during the Brexit referendum he led a race-based attack on Barack Obama.

Boris didn’t attack Muslims by accident. He did so because he was aware of how public attitudes are shifting, and he knew it was dog-whistle politics to his supporters and potential supporters.

The fact that he’s refused to apologise simply underlines this. But this is who Boris is.

When the media say, ‘it’s Boris being Boris’ they’re playing right into his hands, providing an excuse for his unacceptable actions.

While there is now a panel in the Conservative Party looking into his actions, it has been claimed that a majority of Britons do not agree his comments were ‘racist’.

But aside from the old trope that ‘you can’t be Islamophobic because Islam is not a race’ (funny how most Muslims targeted happen to have brown skin), and that people are actually far more divided when it comes to whether or not he should apologise (young people in particular think he should) – these comments take place within a context.

That context is rising hate crimes, particularly against Muslims.

Boris is trying to carve out an English nationalist space for himself, initially inside the Tory Party but then in wider society

It’s the intervention of powerful far-right figures such as ex-Breitbart fake news network boss Steve Bannon, and his desire to create a new ‘movement’ to push far-right politics to the fore of Europe (Boris has met with Bannon, who openly supports convicted criminal Tommy Robinson, several times).

And it’s Boris’s own aspirations to become the new Tory leader at a time when the party is hopelessly at war over Brexit and hoping to steal some of the populists’ thunder when support is rapidly edging away from mainstream political parties.

Nearly a quarter of the population remain bitterly opposed to liberal views.

Our most recent YouGov poll, commissioned this April for the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, revealed that 41% of people believed that Britain’s multicultural society wasn’t working and different communities were generally living separate lives.

Yet 43% of the poll felt that Britain was a successful multicultural society. Over a third (37%) of all respondents saw Islam as a threat to the British way of life, but a similar proportion (33%) saw the Muslim faith and the British way of life as compatible.

Any politician who tries to appeal merely to the lowest common denominator, to the fear that laps within us, is also going to miss out on support from the large numbers of young people who have very different views to the naysayers.

39% of people who took our Fear & HOPE surveys now represent these more progressive views, nearly 15% more than the negative identity tribes.

And such a politician will be turning their back on the very real changes occurring in modern Britain, where mixed-race relationships are becoming more common, where gay relationships and marriage are barely commented on.

One positive sign amidst the gloom is that, ironically, anti-immigrant sentiments are falling; according to our YouGov poll, 60% of people can now see and agree with the benefits of immigration.

But for all that, in some areas we are still a deeply divided nation.

Throw in the very real possibility now of a ‘hard’ Brexit – the kind of sharp break advocated by strong Leavers like Boris, which will hit the communities that were promised the most hardest – and you have a tinder box atmosphere where the merest spark could set off a chain of events leading to very real harm in this country.

The stakes could not be more real: but they are not just political stakes, measured in terms of which faction rules the Conservative Party, they are stakes that will measure how our country speaks to itself after we emerge in the post-Brexit landscape.

Do we want a nation that embraces a positive vision of the future, where we all have a voice, or a dark and divided Britain, coaxed on by the language of the Bannons and Tommys, where neighbour is turned on neighbour and a whiff of the 1920s blows over our shores?

Boris is trying to carve out an English nationalist space for himself, initially inside the Tory Party but then in wider society.

It is a dangerous turn that will only further polarise Britain, generate hate and embolden the true far right.

We’ve had enough of his loud-mouthed, unashamed racism, which is why we’ve said it’s time for the Tories to suspend the whip from the former foreign secretary.

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