Racism is spreading like arsenic in the water supply

Randeep Ramesh writes: One of the genies uncorked by the referendum of the EU has been low-lying fascism and extreme nationalism. This is not to say that all leavers were racists. Far from it. But one of the political forces that have been unleashed is a form of dangerous nativism that unchecked will threaten us all.

It’s clear from the barrage of reports that a form of bigotry in everyday conversation is being legitimised. It is not racist to worry about high levels of immigration but a climate of fear is being created in the name of leavers. There are reports of schoolchildren terrified of being deported. “Polish vermin”, “Paki cunt” and “send them home” seem to be becoming something that immigrants and non-whites once again have to endure.

Monday night’s BBC news report featured a neo-Nazi in a balanced piece about the fallout for eastern European immigrants of Brexit in Leeds. Outside a Polish shop, in an interview a heavily inked Lee described himself as a “nationalist” and a “fascist”. He openly displayed his swastika tattoo and talked of a “sense of relief” after the Brexit vote. It was, said Lee, time to “take our country back”.

For the leave campaigners, it must weigh on their conscience that their slogans have been easily adopted by the far right. That’s the trouble with words, you never know whose mouth they have been in. Seven years ago the country had an impassioned debate over the right of the British National party’s Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time. Griffin did appear. His cause died a political death, eviscerated by his fellow panellists’ fury.

The aftermath of the Brexit vote threatens to reanimate that corpse. It is increasingly clear that the language of extremists is becoming part of the British street. Words are weapons-grade material. They can be made into political bombs. How long before “send them back” becomes a line in a manifesto that suggests voluntary repatriation for the last wave of European migrants? [Continue reading…]

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