Watch: Priti Patel comes under fire over ‘gesture politics’ claim by England footballer Mings
Tory ex-minister Johnny Mercer has backed Tyrone Mings after the England footballer accused Priti Patel of “pretending to be disgusted” at racist abuse of his teammates.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have been targeted online after they missed in Sunday’s penalty shoot-out as England lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
After Aston Villa defender Mings criticised Patel, Conservative MP Mercer said: “This guy is completely right.”
The abuse has been widely condemned, with home secretary Patel saying: “I am disgusted that England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media.
“It has no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable.”
Mings called this out, pointing to her previous labelling of taking the knee before games as “gesture politics”.
He tweeted: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘gesture politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.”
England players took the knee before each game in the Euros as an anti-racism gesture.
Critics argued this was also showing political support for the Black Lives Matter campaign group, though England manager Gareth Southgate insisted this is not the case, saying the players were "supporting each other".
Mercer, responding to Mings’s tweet, said on Monday night: “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.”
Mercer is the former veterans minister who resigned in April with an astonishing attack on Boris Johnson's government, which he said was the “most distrustful, awful environment I’ve ever worked in”, where “almost nobody” tells the truth.
Amid a growing backlash against Patel, Mercer added on Tuesday: “It’s not about the ties of the taking a knee to BLM – who defaced war memorials in London. Right-wing idiots use the poppy – should I drop that?
“It’s about empathy with our fellow countrymen who suffer appalling abuse. Empathy. What it’s like to be them. It’s not hard.”
Former Tory Party chair Baroness Warsi also criticised Patel over her statement, suggesting the home secretary and the government is guilty of “dog whistle” politics.
“It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division," the Conservative peer tweeted. "Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations.”
Patel has not commented on Mings’s tweet.
Senior government minister Stephen Barclay sought to defend her on Tuesday morning.
The chief Treasury secretary told Sky News: “The home secretary has repeatedly taken a stand against racism.
“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.”
Watch: Ban racists from football matches for life, say England fans