But that was as nothing when put alongside Ms Atkins’ trio of gaffes yesterday in Parliament, where the racism meted out to England’s footballers was being debated. Labour MP Zarah Sultana observed later “In Parliament, in a debate about the racist abuse of our England stars, I just challenged Tory minister Victoria Atkins on the Prime Minister & Home Secretary’s encouragement of racism. She told me - the only person of colour down to speak - to ‘lower my tone’. Shameless”.
Mighty white of her. At least she didn’t call Ms Sultana “uppity”. But that was a mere hors d’oeuvres for a much more pungent entrée, as Ms Atkins made an assertion in response to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that she would be wise not to repeat outside the chamber. Jezza had advocated action against online racist abuse. And her reply?
“I suspect I’m not the only person who has felt a little bit astonished that it is this right honourable member who’s chosen to ask that question about taking immediate action to tackle racism … I am also reminded that a Jewish female MP had to have police protection at his party conference because of fears for her own safety. So I will listen to many, many people about tackling racism. I will work with pretty much anyone. But I must say, I will take a long spoon on which to sup with this particular member”. Whoops!
The “Jewish female MP” to whom Ms Atkins refers is most likely Luciana Berger, and if so, she has gone plain flat wrong. Ms Berger may have walked in to Labour’s 2018 annual Conference - in Liverpool - alongside a Police officer (not a close protection officer, note), but several attendees at Conference confirmed she had not had protection once inside.
Ms Berger had, however, been subjected to threats by the far right. This was covered by Zelo Street at the time. So could Ms Atkins top the patronising racism, and the dishonest smear? Here comes the Hold My Beer moment that will have had Piers Morgan - and, indeed, his former co-host Susanna Reid - shaking their heads in disbelief.
“And so, I’d like to conclude this statement with the words of our England captain Gareth Southgate … ‘we have been a beacon of light in bringing people together. The national team stands for everybody, and so that togetherness has to continue. We have shown the power our country has when it comes together’”. Captain? Gareth Southgate??
Or, as Tom Peck from the Independent put it, “The national team stands for everybody. Well, almost everybody. Not me, I haven't got a scooby who any of them are or what any of this is about but Priti Patel wouldn't turn up so you've got me instead”. Sally Jockstrap eat your heart out. Another to rank alongside Bobby Moore’s 1966 hat-trick.
There aren’t many ministers, even in the cabinet of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who can top patronising racism and dishonest smearing with something even worse. Victoria Atkins is a true over-achiever. But not in credibility.
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