<p>Steve Baker</p>

Steve Baker

PA

Conservatives need to change their attitudes towards people taking the knee as a gesture against racism, a Tory MP has said – but some people are questioning his motives.

According to The Guardian, former minister Steve Baker told MPs the matter was “a decisive moment for our party”.

“Much as we can’t be associated with calls to defund the police, we urgently need to challenge our own attitude to people taking a knee,” he wrote in a message to MPs on the Conservatives Against Racism, For Equality group. “I fear we are in danger of misrepresenting our own heart for those who suffer injustice.”

He also forwarded a letter written to all MPs by Albie Amankona, a co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism, For Equality, urging for more compassion, the publication reported.

It comes after a torrent of racism was directed at players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho following England losing the Euro 2020 final match against Italy.

England footballer Tyrone Mings has since accused the home secretary Priti Patel, of “stoking the fire”when she described players taking the knee as “gesture politics” and refused to condemn booing by fans. Others said she was hypocritical for then speaking against racism.

But not everyone believes Baker is the campaigner for racial equality he may like to appear as. Writing on Twitter, some people suggested he was co-opting the cause as a means of placating voters:

Others, however, praised Baker – who previously spoke out against white privilege during an appearance on Politics Live in October 2020 – for taking the stance:

Baker is not the only member of the party to talk about the issue. Former Conservative minister Johnny Mercer tweeted support for Mings after his criticism of Patel, saying: “The painful truth is that this guy is completely right.”

Mercer said more of his Conservative colleagues should speak out. “We have some great colleagues in the party who reflect this – I am in no way alone. But more must have the courage to speak up, instead of remaining silent in some weird attempt to curry favour.”

Writing for PoliticsHome, he added: “As leaders do we not support them; do we not see their pain, do we not see their efforts in the bigger picture? That’s why the home secretary was wrong to side with those booing the players before matches, and why the prime minister was absolutely right to ask them to stop.”

Whether the calls are authentic or cynically playing for votes remains to be seen.

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