I was dismayed and worried to learn from a report by Sheffield Council that there were 1,356 hate offences committed in our city over the past year, a seven percent increase on previous years. My heart goes out to all of those people in our community who are living in fear.
The fact that, nationally, hate crime has more than doubled in the last five years is deeply alarming and I have used my role as an MP and Shadow Policing Minister to speak out about this issue in Parliament and in the media.
It is incumbent on the government to protect minority groups living in this country and I have pressed Ministers to do more to tackle hate crime but, disgracefully, they have failed to act. In fact, Boris Johnson’s irresponsible rhetoric on Brexit has contributed to the toxic discourse that surrounds our politics. Last year, hate crime spiked during parliamentary debates around what the Prime Minister described as Labour’s “surrender bill”.
At the same time, the Tories have deliberately created a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants, which encourages the demonisation of migrants and xenophobic attitudes in our society. In contrast, Labour has called for an end to the hostile environment and for the rights of EU citizens who live in the UK to be protected post-Brexit.
Labour’s General Election manifesto pledged to commission an independent review into the threat of far-right extremism and how to tackle it. Despite our General Election defeat, we will continue to urge the government to act on these issues.
I have also called on social media companies to clamp down on far right propaganda that fuels hate in our communities. If these companies are not prepared to act then the government should introduce tougher legislation and sanctions to force social media providers to remove extremist content.
But it is beholden on all of us to stand up to racism and hate crime wherever we see it. We should all be confident in challenging bigotry and, in fact, I gave a speech on this very issue just recently to a Christian conference on how to tackle populism. You can read it here.
I will continue to speak out against all forms of bigotry both locally and nationally, while urging the government to take practical steps to clamp down on hate crime and far right extremism.