Yorkshire's Baroness Sayeeda Warsi accuses Priti Patel and government of 'dog whistle' politics after England players suffer racist abuse

A Yorkshire-born former chairwoman of the Tory Party has accused the Government of "dog whistle" politics amid mounting fury over the racist abuse directed at England's footballers.

Baroness Warsi tweeted that it was "time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division" as she urged Ministers to consider their role in creating a culture where footballers are subjected to "vile" racist abuse.

Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of a failure of leadership after England players were subjected to “absolutely appalling” racist abuse in the wake of their Euro 2020 final defeat.

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The Labour leader criticised the Prime Minister for having “sat back” and delayed issuing criticism of the booing of the national team for taking the knee against racism in the tournament.

England stars Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all targeted with racist abuse after they were unable to score in the penalty shoot-out against Italy on Sunday. Mr Johnson said those responsible for the abuse “should be ashamed of themselves”, but Sir Keir said his words “ring hollow”.

Dewsbury-born Baroness Warsi tweeted in response to a message by Home Secretary Priti Patel who said she was "disgusted that England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media".

Last month Ms Patel chose not to condemn fans’ booing, saying it was a “choice for them”, as she criticised taking the knee as “gesture politics”.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Pic: Tony Johnson

Initially, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to condemn individuals who booed England players, only going so far as urging them to be “respectful” in comments on June 7.

It was not until four days later that a No 10 spokesman toughened Downing Street’s response to say the Prime Minister wants fans to “cheer them on, not boo”.

Baroness Warsi wrote: "Priti, we as govt, as Conservatives, need to think about our role in feeding this culture in our country.

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

She later added: "As a proud centre right politician, as a proud part of a diverse vibrant nation that produced a football team that spoke to and represented England in all its modern diverse glory, it shames me that in 2021 some in politics are still playing fast & loose with issues of race."

In politics, a dog whistle is the use of coded or suggestive language in political messaging to garner support from a particular group without provoking opposition. The concept is named for ultrasonic dog whistles used in shepherding.

Dog whistles use language that appears normal to the majority but communicate specific things to intended audiences.

Former England player Gary Neville accused Mr Johnson of condoning the booing of players and suggested he had promoted racism by previously describing Muslim women as looking like “letterboxes”.

“The Prime Minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism,” Mr Neville told Sky News.

Downing Street rejected the criticism. Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “I would utterly reject that claim. The Prime Minister set out this morning his response to some of the awful comments that we’ve seen.

“The Prime Minister was clear that he wanted to see everyone getting behind the team to cheer them on. He made that clear on the 11th, before England’s first game.”