Tory MP calls for investigation into how many racist football tweets originated in UK

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
TOPSHOT - England's forward Marcus Rashford reacts after failing to score in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Marcus Rashford was among the England players subjected to racist abuse after England's Euro 2020 final loss. (Frank Augstein/pool)

A Conservative MP has called for a probe into how many racist tweets targeting England players after the Euro 2020 final originated in the UK.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have been targeted after they missed in Sunday’s penalty shootout as England lost to Italy.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, after responding to a tweet calling for evidence over which “accounts were England fans”, said he has tabled a written parliamentary question to home secretary Priti Patel asking how many of the racist tweets were posted in the UK.

MPs use written questions to find out information from government departments, which then have to issue a response.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on relaxing restrictions imposed on the country during the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic at a virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room on July 12, 2021 in London, England.  The government plans to end most Covid-19 social restrictions, such as the legal mandate to wear masks and distancing rules, in England on July 19. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson will urge social media firms to take tougher action over racism, though he has come under fire for his past stance on England players taking the knee. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/pool)

It comes as Boris Johnson is set to urge social media firms to take tougher action over racist abuse.

The prime minister was preparing to hold talks about online abuse with companies including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in Number 10 on Tuesday, in the wake of the attacks after Sunday’s final.

However, the government has come under fire over its previous discussions surrounding racism earlier in the tournament.

After home secretary Priti Patel condemned the racist abuse of the players, England squad member Tyrone Mings accused her of “pretending to be disgusted”, pointing to her previous labelling of taking the knee before games as “gesture politics”.

Watch: Priti Patel comes under fire over ‘gesture politics’ claim by Tyron Mings

England players took the knee before each game in the Euros as an anti-racism gesture.

Critics have argued this is also showing political support for the Black Lives Matter campaign group, though England manager Gareth Southgate insisted this is not the case, saying the players were "supporting each other".

Ex-minister Johnny Mercer, who resigned from the government in April, was among those who backed Mings over Patel.

He said taking the knee is “about empathy with our fellow countrymen who suffer appalling abuse”.

Boris Johnson also condemned the abuse of Rashford, Sancho and Saka, saying those responsible should “crawl back under the rock from which you emerged”.

However, he has also been criticised after he delayed issuing criticism of the booing of players earlier in the tournament for taking the knee.

Ex-England player Gary Neville, who was a pundit for ITV during the Euros, said on Monday: “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. It starts at the very top.”

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also said the PM “shouldn’t have sat back, he should’ve called out the booing – because if you boo players who are taking a stand against racism then you end up where we are today”.

On Tuesday, Downing Street indicated Johnson would be comfortable with England footballers taking a knee at a Number 10 reception if one was held for them.

His spokesman said: “I think the prime minister made his feelings clear. People should feel free to show their respect and show how much they condemn racism in this country in any way that they choose.”

Watch: Action against racism comes from the top – Gary Neville

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