Tories are excusing the same political violence that’s ravaging other countries – is this the ‘Global Britain’ they speak of?

In his first speech as prime minister, Johnson told us: ‘my job is to make your streets safer’. Instead, his team are fuelling the already febrile atmosphere across the nation

Chris Key
Monday 30 September 2019 10:44 BST
Boris Johnson defends use of 'surrender act' on Andrew Marr

A few years ago while waiting for my plane to take-off from Cairo, I thought how lucky I was to return to a country where political protest rarely ends in violence. By the time I took the same journey yesterday, that view had changed. Egypt is at risk of returning to a repeat of 2011 when over 800 died and hundreds disappeared, as a wave of protests have kicked off again. In the UK, our government is starting to incite political violence with its incendiary language and warnings of what will happen if Brexit is overturned.

In his campaign to become Tory leader, Boris Johnson repeatedly claimed he would “bring the country together”. He disingenuously claimed that he had shown leadership as mayor of London in 2011 during the London riots, even though it took days for him to curtail his holiday and take charge of the situation.

Less than three months into the job and Johnson has broken the law, patronised female MPs worried about their safety and had members of his cabinet warn of a repeat of the Gilet Jaunes movement in France and the 1992 Los Angeles riots if Brexit is not delivered. Even his sister has condemned his language.

Given talk of a possible pact between the Brexit Party and the Tories in a forthcoming general election, it should hardly come as a surprise that the government is now using the threat of mob rule to argue against a Final Say or a second referendum. After all, Nigel Farage has talked about donning khaki and picking up a rifle if Brexit is not delivered. Johnson’s repeated use of the term “surrender bill”, to describe the Benn Act, is another part of the playbook to bring out anger against MPs in order to secure a majority.

This sends a dreadful image of Britain to the rest of the world, especially to those countries where citizens have died during protests against their governments. Egypt is far from the only nation where political violence has become commonplace in recent years. In 2017, dozens were killed in Kenya during a contentious presidential election which ended up being re-run when the country’s Supreme Court annulled the original election result.

President Kenyatta, whose election was originally overturned, branded Kenya’s Supreme Court judges as “crooks”.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling against the proroguing of parliament here, Kwasi Kwarteng commented: “I'm not saying this, but, many people... are saying that the judges are biased”.

The words might have been different but the underlying message was the same – to undermine those whose job it is to uphold the rule of law and pit the people against them.

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Venezuelans, tired of fuel and food shortages have also taken to the streets repeatedly to protest against the authoritarian regime of Nicolas Maduro. Earlier this year, over 40 people died in demonstrations. Opposition leaders have been arrested in recent years and Maduro set up his own version of parliament, stuffed full of his own family members and cronies.

The Conservatives were supposed to be the party of law and order. In his first speech in Downing Street, Johnson told us that “My job is to make your streets safer”.

Instead, his team are now using a blowtorch to fuel the already febrile atmosphere at Westminster where MP’s are facing constant death threats and having to instil panic alarms to keep their staff safe. The impartiality of judges has been questioned by members of the Cabinet and Dominic Cummings is telling MPs who fear for their safety to deliver Brexit if they want to feel safe.

I used to feel pride in my country when I travelled abroad for work or showed my friends around Westminster. Now I despair when I turn on the TV in countries where people have died protesting against autocratic, corrupt dictatorships and see our government inciting violence to make sure Brexit is delivered.

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