Is Boris Johnson fuelling far-right terror threat?
Far-right extremists hail prime minister’s remarks as Jo Cox widow warns of Brexit ‘inferno’
Far-right extremists have hailed Boris Johnson's aggressive stance against Parliament, amid accusations his increasingly vitriolic rhetoric poses a very real threat to MPs safety and risks igniting Britain’s Brexit “inferno”.
Britain First, English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and commentator Katie Hopkins are among those throwing their weight behind the prime minister after he dismissed an emotional plea from a friend of the murdered MP Jo Cox as “humbug”.
Labour MP Paula Sherriff urged him stop using language such as “surrender” or “betrayal”, stating that the words he used had often been echoed in death threats and abuse both she and her colleagues had received.
The exchange prompted “a flurry of activity on Wednesday night” The Independent reports, in which “extremists across social media platforms labelled MPs ‘traitors’ and called for ‘no surrender’.”
Among these were the supporters of prominent right-wing extremists, who the news site says “have previously called for riots at demonstrations supporting Johnson, amid warning that his language was ‘calling to’ nationalists”.
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It comes just a week after police named far-right extremism as the fastest-growing terror threat to the UK and said groups “anywhere along the spectrum” could inspire attacks, as MPs receive “unprecedented” abuse.
As if to highlight the danger, yesterday a man was arrested trying to break into the constituency office of Labour MP Jess Phillip, reportedly shouting the word “fascist”.
The incident has eerie similarities to the death of Jo Cox just days before the EU referendum. The mother-of-two Labour MP was stabbed and shot outside her constituency office by a white supremacist, who later described her as a “traitor” because of her support for the Remain campaign.
Cox’s widower, Brendan, said the fury of Britain’s Brexit “inferno” is now so intense that it could encourage violence unless politicians tone down their rhetoric.
Opening up deep divisions “about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and Britishness itself”, Reuters says, “the rage and ferocity of the Brexit debate has shocked allies of a country that has prided itself as a confident - and mostly tolerant - pillar of Western economic and political stability”.
The feverish atmosphere has promoted Jolyon Maugham QC, who led the case against Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament, to say he may need to leave the country over death threats triggered by the ruling.
The Guardian reports Maugham’s local police and crime commissioner were “sufficiently concerned” by “a lot of lone wolf, far-right threats” against his life that they advised him to buy a stab vest. Local police have been told to frequently drive past his house to ensure the family is safe, while a former counter-terrorism expert has been ordered to install a panic button in his home. Security experts have also advised him to hire a bodyguard for key public events.
While the decision by a journalist to publish his home address “has massively increased what is perceived to be the threat against my life,” he said “it wasn’t helped by an incredibly provocative quote in the media by a No. 10 source attacking the people bringing the legal case and threatening the judiciary”.
Johnson’s comments and tone have sparked condemnation from all sides of the political spectrum, including from his own sister, Rachel Johnson, who told Sky News: “My brother is using words like ‘surrender’ and ‘capitulation’ as if the people standing in the way of the blessed will of the people, as defined by the 17.4 million votes in 2016, should be hung, drawn, quartered, tarred, and feathered”.
“I think that is highly reprehensible” she added.
Vice reports that the storm continues to rumble on for Johnson, “revealing the depth of concern among pro-Remain lawmakers over the threats they have been facing for opposing the government’s strategy to take the country out of the EU by 31 October, deal or no deal”.
“Boris Johnson's decision has long been clear - he would seek to use everything within his grasp to stick to the Brexit deadline he set” says the BBC’s Laura Kuenssburg, and the prime minister appears to be doubling down on his people vs. parliament message.
He told a meeting of the backbench 1922 committee MPs will not be “bullied” into curtailing their language, while he refused to stop using the term “surrender act”.