The deputy leader of the Labour PartyAngela Rayner has hit back at Priti Patel after the home secretary accused England footballers of participating in ‘gesture politics’ by taking the knee before games.

Earlier this week, Patel controversially defended the so-called England supporters who chose to boo the team during Sunday’s Euro 2020 game against Croatia, after the players took the knee to show solidarity with those fighting racial injustice.

The boos and jeers at Wembley stadium were drowned out by fans who chose to applaud the gesture instead. The team have falsely been accused of supporting ‘Marxist politics’ by backing Black Lives Matter despite the squad and manager Gareth Southgate saying that it has nothing to do with politics.

Despite this, Patel seemed determined to stick to this narrative by telling GB News: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well.”

She added: “It’s all well to support a cause and make your voices heard. But actually, quite frankly, and we saw last year in particular with some of the protests that took place, I speak now very much from what I saw in the impact on policing. It was devastating.”

In response to her comments, Rayner tweeted directly at Patel in a dig at her and the government. The Labour MP wrote: “Gesture politics is clapping for NHS staff when the TV cameras are rolling and then giving them a pay cut.”

This harkens back to the controversy that the government created for itself after it gave NHS staff just a one per cent pay rise for their tireless work during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially when they told the entire country to applaud them every Thursday evening.

England defender Tyrone Mings also responded to Patel accusing her of being one of the “many people that oppose us taking the knee or refuse to defend it.”

During last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, Boris Johnson said that people shouldn’t be “bullied into things that they don’t want to do” when he was quizzed on LBC Radio about whether he would take the knee or not.

Patel’s contrary take on the story is a contrast to Johnson, who urged fans to not boo the players for taking the knee.

This article was amended on 21 June 2021. It previously referred to Angela Rayner as the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, but this was incorrect. She is in fact the current deputy leader, while Ms Rayner is the former party chair.

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)