Don’t let racists hijack debates

Ronnie Campbell MP for Blyth Valley.
Ronnie Campbell MP for Blyth Valley.

Hate crime is on the march and it needs to stop now.

It is on the increase in the north east and across the UK, and such attacks are completely unacceptable.

Such behaviour must be condemned. We need to uphold British values of a compassionate, tolerant and inclusive society.

We should not be blaming immigrants for the problems in the UK. They play a vital role in today’s society, from small corner shops to local restaurants, from factories to farms, and we should appreciate everything they have brought to the country.

Official figures show there was a sharp increase in racially or religiously aggravated crimes recorded by police in England and Wales following the EU referendum. In July 2016, police recorded a 41 per cent increase compared to the same month the year before.

Data from 31 police forces showed that 1,546 racially or religiously aggravated offences were recorded in the two weeks up to and including the day of the referendum on June 23. In the fortnight after the poll, the number climbed to 2,241.

In September, the National Police Chiefs’ Council released figures that showed the number of incidents rose by 58 per cent in the week following the vote. Unfortunately, the trend is continuing.

Unlike many of my Labour colleagues, I voted Brexit, and there is currently a serious debate over immigration levels, not least in my own party.

But such debates must never be hijacked by a minority of racists who use it as an excuse to attack and intimidate immigrant families.

Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ lead on hate crime, was right when he said: “Nobody in this country should have to live their lives enduring fear, intimidation or, in a third of cases, violence because of who they are.”

We all have a responsibility to work together to defeat the small minority of people who seek to peddle hatred and violence.