While Downing Street has busied itself quite rightly condemning the racist abuse of English footballers in Montenegro, the Conservative Party itself is becoming every increasingly embroiled in one race storm after another.
Urging European football’s governing body to take “strong and swift action” against the abuse suffered by Raheem Sterling and others during England’s 5-1 win, the call to action sadly feels very hollow from this Prime Minister and perhaps is more about positive headlines and grandstanding than a true desire or care for race issues.
Just this past week alone the Conservative party has rejected calls to adopt a recommended definition of Islamophobia, readmitted 15 councillors accused of Islamophobic abuse, been embroiled in the “KKK Grand Wizards” affair and seen an MP repeating neo-Nazi “cultural Marxism” rhetoric.
Produced by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, the Tories rejected the definition on Islamophobia that has already been accepted by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. The definition, which was carefully formulated through six months of consultation, states that “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
The scale of the Islamophobia problem in the Conservative has only now begun to be laid bare, despite years of calls for something to be done about the issue. Action appeared to be underway after the party suspended 40 members for Islamophobic and racist abuse, however, the Tories commitment to combat the problem is again under question after the reinstatement of 15 suspended councillors to the party.
Those reinstated into the party include Andrew Bowles, the leader of Swale Council. Swales, the leader of the council for 16 years, claimed online that far-right agitator Tommy Robinson was a “patriot” and that his ban from social media was a “disgraceful injustice.” Swales was suspended for 13 days.
The Conservatives reluctance to tackle racial issues would appear to begin right at the top of the party where prominent right-wing MPs including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith have started to refer to their hard Brexit clique as “the Grand Wizards.”
The term “Grand Wizard” has significant and frightening overtones as the name given to the head of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Whether this group adopted the name as a “joke” or are more serious, it is extremely unlikely that the MPs in question did not know of the connotations of the term, nor the feelings it enflames in BAME voters.
Perhaps the Conservatives feel that such things are mere “cultural Marxism” however.
Speaking to the Bruges Group in Westminster, MP Suella Braverman stated that the Tories were “engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism, where banning things is becoming de rigeur,” claiming this “cultural Marxism” was led by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
One of the most popular far-right tropes, the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory developed in the 1990s as a suggestion that there was a movement to undermine and destroy “western culture,” largely engineered by Jews. It is heavily linked to theories of “white genocide” and very much a modern interpretation of the Nazi concept of “cultural Bolshevism,” popular amongst others with terrorist Anders Brevik.
At the time of writing, no action has been taken regarding the comments of Suella Braverman, nor the actions of “the Grand Wizards.”
The Conservatives continuing willingness to allow the far-right and far-right culture to infiltrate their ranks without check or recourse is significantly alarming. Their unwillingness to address this issue and take the decision to stamp out racism in the party only lends credence to claims that the Tories are institutionally racist.
While the Conservatives are happy t0 give lip-service to anti-racism, their actions are where they should be truly judged and their actions suggest they have little commitment to bringing “strong and swift action” to end the racism scandals that are engulfing their party. Perhaps, however, that racism begins at the very top, the summit of which appears to be the “Grand Wizards.”