Hate crime culprits in Sheffield suburb ‘emboldened by Boris Johnson’

Racist graffiti and transphobic hate crime has been reported within 24 hours of the Conservatives sweeping to victory in a Sheffield constituency, according to the losing Labour candidate.

Sunday, 15th December 2019, 1:46 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th December 2019, 9:17 pm

And she claims the culprits behind the shocking incidents in Stocksbridge have been emboldened by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments ‘promoting homophobia and bigotry’.

Francyne Johnson, who finished more than 7,000 votes behind her Tory rival Miriam Cates in Penistone and Stocksbridge, said that a ‘very serious’ transphobic hate crime, involving criminal damage and assault, had been committed by people celebrating the election result during the early hours of Friday morning.

She also told how racist graffiti had been sprayed over a takeaway in the town, and said both crimes had been reported to police.

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Stocksbridge in Sheffield (pic: Google)

Posting on Facebook, she wrote: “This is what happens when you have a Prime Minister who openly promotes homophobia and bigotry.

“This is what happens when you have a Prime Minister who only last year referred to Muslim women as 'bank robbers' and 'letter boxes'.

“I am deeply worried that this Conservative government which promotes hate will embolden and licence such crimes.

“This is not 'colourful language' as Miriam Cates described it on radio Sheffield a few weeks ago. It is hate speech which has real consequences and these local incidents represent them.

“I have contacted our MP to find out what action will be being taken to tackle this rapid increase in violent and criminal hate crime over the forthcoming weeks.”

Ms Johnson was referring to Mr Johnson’s notorious comments in a Telegraph column last year in which he called the burqa oppressive and said it was ‘absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes’.

Those comments sparked fury among some senior Conservatives, including the party’s then chairman Brandon Lewis, who demanded an apology, though Mr Johnson was subsequently cleared of breaking the Tory code of conduct.

However, the anti-racism organisation Tell Mama reported at the time how anti-Muslim incidents rose by 375 per cent in the week following the column.

In a Spectator column in 2000, Mr Johnson wrote about what he called: “Labour's appalling agenda, encouraging the teaching of homosexuality in schools, and all the rest of it."

Ms Johnson, who is a Labour councillor for Stocksbridge and Upper Don, told The Star: “There’s a wealth of evidence to suggest there’s been an increase in hates crimes both under this Conservative government and in particular under this leader, and if people like me don’t speak out about it then we’re in a worrying place.”

Ms Cates won a 48 per cent share of the vote in the seat, which was previously held by Angela Smith, who was elected as a Labour MP but defected to the Liberal Democrats.

She said she had no knowledge of the incidents to which Ms Johnson referred, though she ‘condemned’ any such crime, and claimed it was ‘ridiculous to pin the two together’.

“One of the reasons Labour lost this election is that members have put out this line that people who voted for Brexit are racists and bigots, when 52 per cent of the country voted for Brexit,” she said.

“It’s clear that people want to move forward and heal this division and we can’t do that until we move on with Brexit, which is what Boris Johnson is doing.”

She described Ms Johnson’s latest comments as another attempt to ‘smear’ her, following accusations of Ms Cates profiting from food banks through an app she and her husband had developed.

Ms Cates said the app was initially developed for free to help the S6 Foodbank increase its donations by telling supporters what items were needed.

When other food banks showed an interest, she said they had to introduce a small set up charge but that the app had cost and continued to cost far more than they would ever reclaim.

Chris Hardy, manager of the S6 Foodbank, defended Ms Cates and her husband Dave, whom he said had been ‘incredibly generous and supportive of our work’ and told how he was ‘incredibly disappointed that a misleading article has tried to damage the good work of the Foodbank App’.

Ms Cates accused Labour of being ‘sore losers’ and claimed Ms Johnson was the only candidate not to shake her hand when the result was announced.