Tory MP says Tyrone Mings is ‘completely right’ to accuse Priti Patel of ‘stoking the fire’ of racism

Ex-minister Johnny Mercer criticises ‘the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into’, asking: ‘Do I fight it or stay silent?’

A Conservative MP has backed England footballer Tyrone Mings after he accused Priti Patel of “stoking the fire” of racism, saying he is “completely right”.

Johnny Mercer broke ranks with his party to reveal his deep unease about the home secretary supporting fans who booed the team for taking the knee at the start of games.

In a fierce attack on Ms Patel, Mr Mings has poured scorn on her condemnation of the racist abuse suffered by some players after the Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy on Sunday.

“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens,” the centre-back tweeted.

Ms Patel has declined to comment, while the Treasury minister Stephen Barclay insisted she had “repeatedly taken a stand against racism”.

But Mr Mercer, a former defence minister who quit describing the government as “a cesspit”, tweeted of Mr Mings: “The painful truth is that this guy is completely right.

“Very uncomfortable with the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into. Do I fight it or stay silent? Modern Conservatism was always so much more to me. We must not lose our way.”

After the match on Sunday, Mr Mercer also laid into the home secretary directly for her inflammatory dismissal of the anti-racism stance the England team had adopted

“Priti and others completely wrong on objecting to taking a knee,” he tweeted.

“Racism pervades some of our communities and it abhors your average bloke like me. Do whatever it takes to take a stand. I’m with you.”

The escalating row also threatens Boris Johnson’s reported plan to host the England team at a reception in Downing Street, or at another venue.

It raises the prospect of some of the players boycotting the event, or using it is an opportunity to criticise the government in public.

Both Mr Johnson and Ms Patel have been branded “hypocrites” for condemning the racist abuse of England’s footballers, after their previous stances on tackling racism.

Former footballer Gary Neville accused the prime minister of having “promoted” racism, in his notorious newspaper article about Muslim women looking “like letterboxes”.

Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative party chairman, also accused her own party of reaping what it had sowed – pointing to its fighting of “culture wars”.

“If we “whistle” & the ”dog” reacts we can’t be shocked if it barks & bites,” she tweeted. “It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division. Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations.”

But Mr Barclay said: “The home secretary herself has been the subject of appalling online racist abuse.

“She has consistently condemned racist abuse online and she has taken action as Home Secretary against some of the extreme right-wing groups that are responsible for this.”

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