Editorial – Boris Johnson’s victory has emboldened racists across Britain and Ireland. Standing up to them has never been more important

With the victory of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives in the British elections a signal has been sent to extremists in both the UK and Ireland. They’ve been told in no uncertain terms that racism will be tolerated; that discrimination against minorities is something to be encouraged; and that Britain’s future is to be decided by its white, Christian population and nobody else. 

Already the indications of what’s to come have made themselves known. Minorities on Twitter have told of the hateful comments they’ve been subjected to in the aftermath of Johnson’s victory. Harun Khan, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has voiced his concerns, and those of Muslim people in general, about the election results. He has said that there is now “a palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities around the country”. Islamophobia has gone unpunished. 

Extremists in the UK have reacted with glee towards the election results. Katie Hopkins tweeted that as a result of the Tory victory, “Nationalism is back”. And to her, this apparently means “British people first”. Notorious far-right provocateur and Islamophobe Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, has announced that he has joined the Tories. Given Boris Johnson’s own history of Islamophobia Yaxley-Lennon should feel nice and snug amongst his fellow Tories.

Johnson’s electoral success is just another in a series of victories for right-wing extremists around the world. Donald Trump in the US and Viktor Orbán in Hungary are cut from the same cloth as Johnson. Racism and discrimination have flourished under their leadership. Johnson will be no different in this regard.

But an obvious question to ask is if this will affect us here in Ireland. The answer is yes. Extremists here have also been emboldened by Labour’s loss. They view Johnson’s victory as a crushing blow to the EU edifice which they despise. And, more importantly, they view it as proof that a conservative, ethno-nationalist election strategy will secure them votes in the coming general election. 

What more proof of this could we ask than their celebratory tweets as soon as the results of the British election were known? These same people count themselves as Irish nationalists par excellence. Any irony of allying themselves with the policies of British Tories escapes them. What matters is that the Tory victory was a victory for racism and discrimination. Replicating that success is what will now drive these same people. 

With this in mind, the next general election is very likely to be a repellent affair. General elections can be fraught at the best of times as the major parties sling accusation and counter-accusation at each other. But the next elections will be different. We will have a number of independent candidates running on a far-right platform that involves deporting people who dared to be born outside of the state and who advocate for the creation of a white ultra-conservative Catholic Ireland. 

Their successes will be limited. And it is unlikely that any of them will get elected. Currently elected TDs who have engaged in racist fearmongering are a different story. The re-election of the likes of Noel Grealish and Michael Collins is almost a certainty. Nonetheless, an election cycle which in the past may have been merely unpleasant will now be transformed into something truly ugly. These candidates will only have to look over the Irish Sea to catch a glimpse of what’s possible. 

But at the same time they will have to deal with people here who don’t share those beliefs; people who will stand up against racism and resist any attempt to return Ireland to the conservative theocracy it once was. Saturday’s Rally for Peace on Earth showed the far right here that their hatred will not go unquestioned and unopposed. Here’s hoping they get the message. 

Featured image via Flickr – Chatham House