As hate crime rises, Farron and Pidgeon visit vandalised Polish Centre

Probably the most awful of many bad aspects of the referendum is that that very small section of the population who are racists and bigots feel emboldened. They think they have 17 million mates. Social media is awash with reports of attacks and the Police say that reports of hate crime are up 57%. While only a tiny minority of Leave voters are racists, they all need to take some responsibility, alongside the Leave campaign, for allowing this appalling behaviour to flourish.

It’s not just in the last few weeks, though. This prejudice has been stoked endlessly by the media and both Tory and Labour governments for long enough. If they had done what Holly said, years ago, we might not be in this mess now.

I don’t want to live in a country where my friend was asked when his Russian wife was “going home.” Another friend heard two people casually and openly talking about “immigrants” in horrible terms on a bus, feeling perfectly free to discuss their deeply unpleasant views.

We’ve all seen the awful photographs of vandalism and vile notices.

I feel utterly ashamed that some people who have made their home here are now frightened. The other day, Karen, who came here from Germany nearly half a century ago, told of the abuse she has experienced.

She told the phone-in with presenter James O’Brien: “I came from Germany in 1973, my late husband was British. I have lived here for 43 years and I’m so scared now.

“Friends of mine say they can’t be friends with me any more. I’m so frightened.

“I got dog poo thrown at my door on Friday. I’ve been told to go back home. I’ve got nobody in Germany.

“I phoned up the Germany Embassy and they just say ‘you’ve made your bed, you lie in it’.

“I’ve phoned up the Citizens Advice Bureau and they told me I have to understand that people are frustrated.

“I’m so, so scared. I haven’t been out of the house for three days because I don’t know what to do.

This is happening right here, right now in our country and we have to stop it. What’s particularly perplexing is that she’s had such awful responses from places like the CAB.

I haven’t yet heard any of the prominent Leave campaigners condemn the increase in this sort of behaviour. They may have been too busy fighting amongst themselves to notice, but they need to accept responsibility for what they have done. Their campaign nurtured fear, pandered to prejudice and stoked division and they should all be ashamed of themselves. I actually don’t think any of them are fit to hold public office and I want to see Gove and Leadsom both sacked if, as expected, Theresa May wins the Tory leadership. I’m not holding my breath for that to happen, but it should.

So it was good to see Caroline Pidgeon and Tim Farron visit a Polish Centre which had been vandalised. Tim said:

We must send the message that racist thugs cannot get away with intimidating any of the diverse communities of the UK. One of Britain’s great strengths is its mix of cultures, and despite the referendum result we must ensure that all citizens are made to feel safe.

Some of the racist campaign posters and disgusting claims by Nigel Farage and co in the referendum campaign have unleashed something very dangerous, as I warned at the time. This has led to some thinking that racist behaviour is acceptable. It isn’t, and Nigel Farage shares the blame for making our streets less safe.

The excellent people who staff this centre have taken great comfort from the support they have received from Britons up and down the country. The centre is a hugely impressive space and welcomes other communities into its heart. On my visit a local primary school was using its theatre to practice for a play. It is multi-cultural Britain at its best and must be protected.

We cannot tolerate this behaviour by thugs and bullies who, if there were no immigrants, would find someone else to pick on.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “I want to see Gove and Leadsom both sacked, if as expected, Theresa May wins the Tory leadership”.

    Wasn’t Theresa May the minister responsible for the vile “Go Home” vans during the coalition years?

  • You think only a ‘tiny’ minority are racists? I would say a sizeable minority are.

  • Bill le Breton 1st Jul '16 - 5:43pm

    Caron tells us in a tweet above right that ‘bright minds in Lib Dems, Labour, SNP & Greens’ are looking for ideas.

    If they want some help, here is a range of options:

    1. Lib Dems commit and campaign for ‘staying in the EU’ by some means eg another referendum, an election, Parliamentary sovereignty.

    2. Lib Dems commit to ‘EEA +’ where the ‘+’ is some fudge on immigration. That seems to be what Vince put forward here

    This option is going to be a crowded field and may be the chosen campaign of the next PM and the Tory Party, but it is also inconsistent with the 27’s commitment for ALL the freedoms of the single market. As well as missing a great opportunity for Liberals – see 3 below.

    3 Or, and this is what I have been writing about for a couple of months; we commit to EEA pure and simple as regards the freedoms of the market: including freedom of movement.

    Why this is a good idea? It is a thoroughly Liberal solution. It stands a chance of getting 27 member or Qualified Majority support from the 27. It could be quick – certainly much quicker than 2 and not constitutionally as risky as 1. It appeals to the widest number; that is the 48% plus the Liberal Leavers in the 52%

    And finally it tackles head on UKIP and the worst elements of those voting to leave. It is the great Liberal Cause to defeat bigotry. It is in short a campaign worth f1ghting.

    That should be enough thinking then. It’s 3. and let’s start campaigning now.

  • Steve Comer 1st Jul '16 - 7:31pm

    Good move by Tim to visit the centre with Caroline.
    I`m also pleased to see him openly attacking Farage over the posters as Guy Verhofstadt has also done this week.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '16 - 8:38pm

    The increase in racism has been horrific and I personally know a European who received abuse before the vote and is now afraid it will become more common. I voted remain, but I didn’t think brexit would be this bad or I would have campaigned more passionately for it.

  • Christine Mary Fitze 1st Jul '16 - 10:01pm

    This is disgusting. People who voted leave should be ashamed of themselves

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Jul '16 - 12:11am

    “People who voted leave should be ashamed of themselves”

    The overwhelming majority of people who voted Leave are not racist and do not condone this kind of behaviour. Their reasons were largely honourable if, in my opinion, misguided. Certainly nothing to be ashamed of themselves about. Ignorant racists should be ashamed of themselves.

  • ‘hile only a tiny minority of Leave voters are racists, they all need to take some responsibility’

    Why? I voted to leave the EU. The fact that there are bigots around is not my fault, I will accept no responsibility for their behaviour.

    I would condemn this racist behaviour last year, last week, this week

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Jul '16 - 9:18am

    @Stevan Rose,

    The blame lies fairly and squarely with disgraceful politicians and their campaigns during the referendum.

    Anyone who failed to challenge the tone and the sub text of some of the posters and some of what was said by these people should hang their head in shame.

    The majority may not be racist but racist sentiment has been legitimised. It has to be challenged by all of us whenever we hear it expressed.

  • Blaming leave voters in general for this is way off the mark and is hardly going to help heal the divisions in our society which were exposed by the referendum. It will only make things much worse.

  • Andy Boddington 2nd Jul '16 - 9:27am

    A few people have taken the Brexit vote as a licence to behave in a racist and intollerant manner. We had an incident here in Ludlow just two days ago. We are standing together cross party to condemn hate crimes at the next full Shropshire Council meeting:

    This is not a party political matter. But it concerns me that some politicians only use the tolerance word when under pressure to do so. Being tolerant, being fair and abhorring abuse should be part of our everyday behaviour. We must speak the language of fairness and tolerance everyday as well a reacting to events as they occur.

  • Conor McGovern 2nd Jul '16 - 11:49am

    I voted to leave and I think this behaviour is absolutely disgusting.

  • This is probably the best link to the LBC recording for the James O’Brien show.

    However painful it is I would encourage people to listen to it:

    At times I despair over what kind of country I now live in.

  • Richard Easter 2nd Jul '16 - 12:47pm

    Racism is sickening. Absolutely vile.

    But the referendum was on a constitutional question. It was not “Shall we kick immigrants out?”. Nor a referendum on UKIP / Boris / Gove / Clegg / Corbyn or whatever.

    Some idiots will have voted Leave because they are racist. Some idiots will have voted Remain because they want more power to corporations and to lobby the Commission for it. Most people had well thought out, decent principled arguments on both sides, and many of the issues were the same – democracy, housing, jobs, small businesses, public services, workers and human rights and so forth. They just arrived at different positions on what direction was best.

  • Richard Easter 2nd Jul ’16 – 12:47pm………Racism is sickening. Absolutely vile……………. Most people had well thought out, decent principled arguments on both sides, and many of the issues were the same – democracy, housing, jobs, small businesses, public services, workers and human rights and so forth. They just arrived at different positions on what direction was best…….

    I agree, wholeheartedly, with your first sentence…

    However, regarding the rest…..We must move in different circles. I ran a quick straw poll amongst the 25 people in my local…18 voted OUT and every single one said their main reason was “Immigration” and the buzz phrase “Taking back control” from the Eu had a chorus of agreement…Not one mentioned “housing, jobs, small businesses, public services, workers and human rights “….

    Perhaps I should change my pub?

  • Richard Easter 2nd Jul '16 - 1:16pm

    But what is it they want control over? Perhaps so that democratic decisions about those jobs, public services, housing, small businesses and so on are returned to the nation state. And if they are worried about immigration, does that make them all racists? I am sure in a survey I recently saw, 77% of people are worried about immigration anyway.

    A straw poll of a small number of people in the pub is no different to asking the board of JP Morgan.

    Amongst people I know who voted to leave include a Green Party voting pensioner, a self employed IT contractor, a BT engineer, a Royal Mail worker and a train driver. None of who mentioned immigrants in “kick them all out” tones as their reason (the only “populist” sentiments were directed at bankers and the Commission), but had informed opinions, of which everything from postal and rail directives, TTIP, pesticide laws, democracy, offshoring, the ECB, Greece and so on.

    The party needs to reach out to such people to win elections. Characterising them as racists obsessed with kicking immigrants will not help.

  • Richard, I never suggested the ‘kicking them all out’ bit…However, It was the ‘immigration bit’ that persuaded them to vote ‘OUT’…Even Farage never said, “We’ll kick those already here out’ but raised the spectre of “We’re already at breaking point” for immigrants….

    Giving out free matches to the general population means that the ‘arsonists’ among us get the idea that starting fires is an option…

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jul '16 - 3:29pm

    A couple of years ago a Lib Dem councillor was convicted of racially aggravated assault.

    If we pretend that racism and hate crimes are limited to the other side of the EU debate or to another political party we will never eradicate these horrible things.

  • The SS Great Britain was a bit long in the tooth but with a lot of history; she’d survived many a storm and was still going strong.
    The younger passengers were pretty content but her older passengers liked to look back to how she was in the 1950s. They forgot the woeful accommodation and food shortages but remembered that, although the service had been poor, at least the stewards, cleaners, etc., had all been British.
    They didn’t appreciate that things were as they are ‘cos Brits wouldn’t do the jobs for the same money and the passengers wouldn’t pay more for the passage.
    Anyway, things were reasonably stable until a few junior officers decided to mutiny and pressurised to the captain (a bit of a wimp who’d only be given the job because of having been to the right school) who agreed to ask the passengers what should happen.
    The junior officers then began promising the passengers a ‘Magical Mystery Cruise’ if they’d back the mutiny and put them in charge (of course the words ‘mutiny’ and ‘promotion’ were never mentioned)…Things would be wonderful; they wouldn’t have to pay a penny more (in fact they’d get a big refund), the seas would be calm and all ports would be exotic paradises where just being ‘British’ would be enough to get wonderful bargains from the inhabitants of these lands…..

    The younger passengers were sceptical but, being as there were far more elderly passengers, the vote went to the mutineers.
    The captain immediately resigned, and the mutineers took over the ship.They told the passengers that the ‘reduction’ wouldn’t actually happen (they said they hadn’t really ‘promised’ it as they’d ‘had their fingers crossed’ at the time).They weren’t really sure where they were going (‘cos they really hadn’t thought they’d win) and anyway these ‘foreign’ stewards, cleaners, etc. would have to stay on until things ‘got sorted out’ and they didn’t know when that would be.
    Then the ‘fourth mate’ announced that he didn’t think the ‘third mate’ was up to the captain’s job and so he’d be applying for it.The ‘third mate’ (who was already in a panic over what had happened) locked himself in his cabin and shouted that he didn’t want the job anyway…The engine room shut down the engines and the ship started drifting…..

    To be Continued…

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Jul '16 - 5:52pm

    “The blame lies fairly and squarely with disgraceful politicians and their campaigns during the referendum”

    Then blame the disgraceful politicians responsible for inflammatory campaign tactics, not everyone who voted Leave with honourable intentions. There are times I feel ashamed of being on the Remain side as in when 17 million fellow citizens are tarred with a racist brush and it is implied they are all complicit in mindless thuggery.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Jul '16 - 8:57pm

    @ Stevan Rose,
    It is not those who are committed to mindless thuggery we need to worry about. I am a veteran of the 60’s and 79’s when I saw the effect of Enoch Powell’s River’s of Blood speech had on communities.

    It is the large number of the 17 million who stood by and did not complain loudly about the racist undertones and overtones of the campaigns. It is those of the 17 million who lacked the sensitivity to understand the sub- text of the -‘Taking our country back’ mantra and what effect that had on the security of people who have immigrated to our country and may even be second or third generation that I blame. They are the ones who give these politicians their power.

    Given that the immigration debate was supposedly about so called ‘open door’ EU immigration, you tell me why there was not more of a convulsion of horror about a poster showing brown people entering Slovenia. Instead when I raised it in conversation, I was met with arguments that millions were coming here from Turkey, that ‘they’ would all arrive here eventually.

    If people stand back and do nothing about the ugliness that has reared its head in our country, then they are complicit. ‘ The only thing necessary the triumph of evil is for good men (sic) to do nothing.

    I wish that I could have attended the march and like Paul, shook the hands of the doormen and told them that they were not only welcome they were valued, but there are sadly enough people who feel the same insecurity as the doormen in my own area. They are all saying the same, that they no longer feel welcome.

    I am one of those who voted remain and I am not prepared to let the ‘I’m not a racist, buts ‘, off the hook, because amongst the 17 million there are a sizeable number who were, and are, motivated by racism.

  • Perhaps if the party hadn’t stood by when Cameron tried to game the election, meting out fear and horror at every opportunity, the 9m leaflet. The Lib Dems said nothing.

    Perhaps if the party had a coherent immigration policy other than `sky’s the limit` we might have had a decent national conversation on the issue to take the sting out of it. The Lib Dems are all about process and policies after the event. They have become a liberal left elite party for whom unlimited migration poses no problems as they live in areas that hold all the levers of power or are well-protected from it.

    Leave wasn’t Nigel Farage who commissioned that awful poster. Leave was about balanced migration policy or rather the ability to elect a government that can do that or for the people to vote for unlimited migration rather than having it forced on them by the EU. Just like they have in every other country outside the EU.

    The truth is our whole democratic structure has been twisted to serving 27 other countries in Europe rather than Europe and the whole world. This is what liberal leavers voted against – to take a step back and re-orientate our view globally rather than the restrictive practices of a politics/customs union.

  • But, Jane, if these are your genuine views, how much more difficult do you think a world united would be? Having worked in a number of disparate countries around the world I can say that it would be very difficult! To take one massive leap from a world of nation states, merely negotiating through their ministers, with no direct democratic input, to an increasingly small world with democratic input to the decisions we will all have to take would be vanishingly improbable, so the idea of continents taking the first steps on this path was the better idea. The EU and its predecessors, over 60 years, have worked on a pilot project. It is clearly required, and has, actually reached out both to developing countries (via the Lome Agreement and other mechanisms) and to newly industrialising countries. What is your alternative path?

  • David Brenton 3rd Jul '16 - 10:22am

    To the few leave campaigners who seem to be waking up bleary eyed after racist attacks, shrugging their shoulders, I would say the following. How could you be so naive and think the racist attacks wouldn’t happen? How can you be in a grown up political party like ours and totally miss this? Perhaps you didn’t, and just kept quiet? Was it all worth it? Is sovereignty (albeit over parliament, not over global companies and the stock exchange, and large energy companies) really worth it? As a teacher, I used to think we went a little overboard about teaching students about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, thinking that our membership of the EU was making things better for the future. Sadly, It seems there are too many areas of England that can easily lapse into the pre-war mentality prevalent in Germany then. I have to admit that when I was watching the results come in I felt a deep sense of sadness and fear. By the morning I was so angry I actually said to the handful of EU nationals on our teaching staff that I was ashamed of being British.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jul '16 - 1:48pm

    The True Vision website indicates that Hate Crime and Incident Reports increased year-on-year from 2957 in 2012/13 to 4764 in 2015/16. The Home Office tells us that reported race-related hate crimes increased from 35845 in 2012/2013 to 42930 in 2014/15.
    This was while we had Lib Dems in Government and while we were in the EU, and we even have the sad fact of a Lib Dem councillor contributing to those statistics. Surely it would be ridiculously unfair to blame all Lib Dems or Remainers for this, or to take Caron’s line in the article and say, “While only a tiny minority of [Lib Dem/Remain] voters are racists, they all need to take some responsibility, alongside the [Lib Dem/Remain] campaign, for allowing this appalling behaviour to flourish.”


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