Leave campaigners' rhetoric 'has made racism socially acceptable again'


Rhetoric used by some Leave campaigners during the EU referendum has made "racism socially acceptable again", according to a Labour MP.

Yasmin Qureshi stressed that she did not wish to criticise people in the UK who voted for a divorce from Brussels as she highlighted a rise in levels of race hate crime after the referendum.

But the MP for Bolton South East did take aim at the way the campaign was conducted by some Brexiteers.

Yasmin Qureshi
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi (Alastair Grant/AP)

Leading an adjournment debate on the subject, she said: "This referendum has been one of the ugliest political campaigns I have witnessed in my lifetime.

"Leave campaigners could have talked about the need to reform, TTIP, economic considerations, a whole host of things but instead they chose to make the debate about the mythical 'other', the immigrant who is stealing their jobs, who is stealing our resources, who is taking our homes.

"The cry seemed to be 'if only we close the door then Britain will be great again and all the problems will be gone'.

Nigel Farage holds up a placard as he launches his party's campaign for Britain to leave the EU
Nigel Farage focused on the issue of immigration during the Leave campaign (Alastair Grant/AP)

"I'm afraid to say the tone taken by some on the Leave campaign about immigration has made racism socially acceptable again."

Qureshi told the House that growing up in the UK as a child of Pakistani immigrants in the 1970s she was frequently subjected to abuse and was often told to "go back home".

She said she now feels as if "nothing has changed".

"The words hurt and stung because they implied that I did not truly belong in this country," she said.

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Qureshi directed much of her criticism at former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

She likened the "breaking point" poster unveiled by Farage in the run up to June 23 to an infamous speech about immigration delivered by Enoch Powell.

"It was the visual equivalent of the Rivers Of Blood speech," she said.

She then accused the Leave campaign of "scaremongering".

"Immigration is not the cause of social inequality and this scaremongering does not and will not address the root cause of the problem faced by so many," she said.

"It is successive failures of previous governments that have failed to deal with the issue of social economic inequality."

She also suggested that abusers now feel more confident as a result of Farage's "frequent racist comments" during the campaign.

Qureshi suggested a cross party coalition is needed to draw up a code of conduct to be adhered to in future political campaigns.