Gary Lineker said the Tories’ planned crackdown on refugees was cruel (Picture: Damo1977)

When BBC bosses suspended Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker they can’t have expected to pay such a penalty. Horrified by the government’s assault on refugees, Lineker tweeted last week, “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”

He then added, “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”

When BBC management took him off air, it triggered solidarity from his fellow presenters and much wider.

The Tories rushed to defend the BBC’s action and its “impartiality”. They were backing the new BBC chair Richard Sharp. He has donated over £400,000 to the Conservative Party, and sorted out an £800,000 loan guarantee for Boris Johnson while he was prime minister.

Lineker was correct in what he said. And the huge backing for his refusal to back down underlined an important point. It is possible to have a much more combative opposition to Tory racism—if you oppose it rather than, as Labour Party leaders do, go along with it.

There’s instinctive acceptance in the media and mainstream politics that most people are racists and reject refugees. The millions backing Lineker show that’s false.

An opinion poll showed 53 percent of people backed Lineker, twice as many as those who supported the BBC while 20 percent didn’t have a view.

And it was also refreshing to see some basic workplace solidarity. Fellow football pundits Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Alex Scott, Mark Chapman, Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas, refused to appear on Match of the Day in solidarity.

Radio 5 Live commentators didn’t work. Management had to cancel Match of the Day on Saturday and Sunday and replace commentaries with old podcasts.

We can do with a lot more of such unofficial, unballoted, indefinite action, especially when workers are victimised.

It’s uplifting to see the support for Lineker. The issue has to be used to build wider support for refugees and not become just an argument about “free speech”.

If you think Lineker was right about the vile racist nature of the Tory policies then join the anti-racist demos this Saturday. And bring anti-racism into all the strikes and marches this week.

On Monday BBC bosses had to back off, declaring they would have a review of social media guidelines, with Lineker accepting the move. But the Tories won’t retreat from their attacks so easily. The fight against the government’s racism has to step up to the new challenge.

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