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Following an debate on what can be done to tackle the rise in hate crime in the UK, Runnymede's Communications Coordinator Lester Holloway summarises the lively discussion below.
The post-Brexit spike in hate crime could get even worse after Britain leaves the European Union, an MP has warned.
David Lammy MP said history shows that immigrants are often targeted during recessions. He feared the UK economy would “tank” after leaving Europe, leading to an even worse situation.
The Labour MP for Tottenham was chairing an event in parliament yesterday to discuss the rise in hate crime and how government and communities should respond.
Speaking to a packed hall at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Race and Community meeting, he said that public debate around immigration during the referendum had been “fueled by the sentiment of the ‘other’” [immigrants] who were stigmatised and attacked,
Lammy, who also leads a government review into ethnic minorities and the criminal justice system, said that if Prime Minister Theresa May was serious about bringing the country together she should tackle issues like industrial decline and zero hours contracts that impacted on working class communities.
Reports of racially-motivated violence against the person had risen by an average of 20 percent in the months immediately before and after the EU referendum, according to the national police lead for hate crime, the assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton.
Brexiteer David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, claimed that the link between the EU referendum and hate crime had been “exaggerated” and that perpetrators of hate were “vicious, mindless individuals” who would be minded to commit such acts regardless of Brexit.
“I know many of you are trying to build a narrative that people like me [who wanted to leave Europe] are responsible for the rise in hate crime. I can assure you that is not true”, he said.
Davies added: “We should be allowed to express views about immigration without people calling us racists and trying to silence us.”
The panel were speaking beneath a large painting that was captioned ‘Alfred [the Great] inciting the Saxons to prevent the landing of the Danes’,
Steven Woolfe, who represented UKIP in the European Parliament before leaving the party over a row with an MEP colleague that ended with him in hospital, acknowledged that Brexit had contributed to hate crime but said: “We have lifted the lid, but it had been bubbling for a hell of a long time.”
The frustrations of the white working class was caused by communities being left behind and ignored by the Westminster elites, claimed Woolfe. He went on to quote Malcolm X and Bob Marley.
Newspaper columnist Nick Cohen condemned racist hate crime but claimed the legal system was going overboard in seeking to prosecute people like the ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, who was “just a drunk” and not someone who was inciting violence. Freedom of speech should be protected, he pleaded.
Cohen said that issues of racial hatred also needed to be viewed through the lens of “class hatred” against the perpetrators.
But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott warned that Britain was moving towards a “dangerous place on race and immigration. “We can’t disconnect the rhetoric around Trump and Brexit [from] the rise in hate crime.”
Dawn Butler, Labour’s spokesperson for black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, said that the Brexit campaign had given people the impression they had “a licence” to express racial hatred.
The government’s race equality minister, Lord Nick Bourne, spoke about the new hate crime strategy and the need for government, the police and communities to work together. “We can only drive down hate crime by driving down prejudice.”
Runnymede provides the secretariat to the APPG on Race and Community, which is chaired by David Lammy and has representatives from across the political spectrum in the Houses of Commons and Lords.
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