Suella Braverman is far from the only senior Tory to echo the far-Right
The home secretary has been accused of mainstreaming far-Right rhetoric – it’s not the first time ministers have parroted extremists
The government has been forced to defend embattled home secretary Suella Braverman over accusations that she used far-Right rhetoric to describe asylum seekers in Parliament last night.
Braverman referred to migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the English Channel in small boats as an “invasion”, leading to criticism from charities and MPs.
In so doing, she echoed official literature from the British Nationalist Party (BNP)’s 2010 election campaign. The far-Right party said at the time it was “proud to campaign on a number of issues that set it apart from all the other parties”, including what it described as the “immigration invasion of our country”.
The same language has been used by the BNP’s successor, Britain First, which has been accused of intimidating migrants in Home Office temporary accommodation.
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Refugee Action branded Braverman’s remarks “shameful” and said her choice of language “puts so many people at risk”. Care4Calais branded the comments “incredibly offensive”.
The home secretary’s inflammatory statement came just a day after a migrant reception centre in Dover was firebombed, leaving two people with minor injuries. Kent Police has not yet established a motivation for the attack, but have been urged to reconsider a decision not to treat it as terrorism.
Hope Not Hate said the attack was “the result of repeated demonisation and scapegoating of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees by the government and by the media”. The anti-facist charity said it had recorded 165 incidents of far-right and anti-refugee activity at immigration facilities so far this year.
Braverman’s department is also under pressure to explain an overcrowding crisis at a migrant centre in Kent that has led to outbreaks of diphtheria and scabies. The crisis was reportedly caused by her refusal to allow asylum seekers to be relocated to hotels.
But Braverman’s comments are far from the only instance of the government amplifying the far-Right’s agenda. Here are four other examples:
The phrase ‘Cultural Marxism’ centres on a conspiracy theory that Christian and Conservative values within Western society have been undermined by the theories of a niche group of Marxist, and largely Jewish, inter-war German scholars. The phrase has been circulated among far-Right groups in the US since the 1990s and was later cited in the manifesto of far-Right terrorist and mass murder Anders Behring Breivik.
Yet it has been used by more than two dozen Tory MPs and peers, despite warnings by Jewish groups of its antisemitic origins.
In November 2020, 26 Tory MPs accused the National Trust of being “coloured by Cultural Marxism dogma” in a letter to The Telegraph after the trust produced a report that examined its properties’ relationship to the slave trade and colonialism.
A month earlier, two Tory MPs – John Hayes and Tom Hunt – used the term in Parliament while criticising a debate during Black History Month that proposed diversifying education by introducing more Black authors into schools’ curriculums.
Braverman also repeated the phrase in a speech condemning “a culture of censorship” in 2019. At the time, the then attorney general said she stood by the term even after she was asked about its far-Right connections during a question and answer session directly after the speech.
‘Hard-Left extremist network’
Another variation on the conspiracy theory was published by The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, just weeks before the 2019 general election.
The piece, headlined ‘HIJACKED LABOUR’, claimed that former British intelligence officers had uncovered a “hard-Left extremist network” at the heart of the Labour Party, including “Marxist intellectuals” and “militant groups”.
But researchers quickly discovered that the web page on which the article was based listed antisemitic and Neo-Nazi groups as sources.
Former international trade secretary Tory MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan tweeted a link to the article after it was published, which remains on her profile despite The Sun having removed the story without comment.
Tory MPs have also been accused of echoing far-Right rhetoric around immigration. Last year, the former home secretary, Priti Patel, was criticised for inciting violence against migrants and human rights lawyers in an open letter by four charities, including Hope Not Hate.
The letter came after Patel denounced “do-gooders” and “lefty lawyers” for representing asylum seekers despite a law firm specialising in asylum cases having recently been attacked. It later transpired that the home secretary had targeted the legal profession even after being briefed about the attack by the police. The alleged attacker is awaiting trial.
Patel has also made false claims that refugees who arrive in the UK by crossing the Channel are “illegal”. In December, a High Court judge ruled that refugees trying to reach the UK by sea have not committed a crime. Home Office lawyers said a “misunderstanding” about the law had been rectified.
But the former home secretary and several ministers continued to repeat the falsehood that Channel crossings are criminal even after the ruling.
The claim is repeatedly made by far-Right groups including extremists who have filmed themselves targeting hotels where refugees have been temporarily housed.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
Earlier this year, the government was accused of criminalising nomadic lifestyles in new trespassing laws introduced as part of its flagship Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
At the time, traveller groups said that the bill is the latest in a long line of attacks against their community by the Tory party.
Last year, Travellers told openDemocracy that the now Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, had orchestrated a campaign to stop new Traveller sites when he was a councillor in 2010.
When he was first elected an MP in 2017, Ross notoriously said that his number one priority if he were prime minister for a day, would be “tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers”.
During the 2019 election, housing secretary Michael Gove listed cracking down on “illegal traveller incursions” as a key priority, while Patel claimed communities live “in fear” of Travellers.
Traveller groups say the comments should be seen in a wider context of rising anti-Gypsyism. A 2016 report by the Council of Europe found that anti-Roma agendas have played a role in the relative success of several far-Right parties across Europe.
The council warned that politicians were giving “silent approval” to extremist groups by failing to condemn or combat anti-Gypsyism.
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