LABOUR MP Diane Abbott issued a stark pre-general election warning to politicians yesterday, saying that chasing votes with racist rhetoric leads to “violence on the streets.”
Ms Abbott called for fellow MPs to stand up to Nigel Farage’s “nakedly anti-immigrant” Ukip in a major speech at the London School of Oriental and African Studies.
And she challenged them to drag Britain’s immigration debate “out of the gutter” ahead of the general election campaign.
“Politicians and the media must wake up to the fact that some of the rhetoric peddled to improve poll ratings and sell copy actually fosters violence and abuse on the streets,” she said.
“It is essential that we drag the debate out of the gutter and back into the realm of logic, rationality and compassion.”
The appeal was delivered less than a week after Ukip won it’s second seat in Parliament.
Ms Abbott, who became Britain’s first black woman MP in 1987, said the “alarming” rise in racism in reaction to austerity is a pattern that’s been repeated through history.
She said: “When hardworking people are struggling against cuts to public services, lack of social housing, and spiralling costs of living, half-truths and myths find fertile ground in the popular imagination, fermenting people’s fears of ‘the other’.”
The MPs speech on combating racism in times of austerity was supported by the Muslim Student’s Association and Operation Black Vote (OBV).
OBV director Simon Woolley called for politicians to “realise their moral and political responsibility in articulating a political view that is more inclusive than divisive.”
And he revealed ambitious plans to stop racists claiming marginal seats at the general election by ensuring BME (black, minority, ethinic) voters turn out.
Inspired by black US freedom riders of the 1960s, Mr Woolley will lead campaigners on a tour of Britain on a special OBV coach.
He told the Star: “Some of these seats have BME populations of less than 2,000 but the majority is so small that they could be a deciding factor. We’ll be in those seats.
“Our task really is in many ways to be a bulwark against the hatred spewed by Ukip and others and to give people hope.”