Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said ministers should not “second guess” police decisions after a TV presenter suggested the Home Secretary has “inflamed” racism over an incident involving golliwogs.
The minister refused to criticise Suella Braverman over reports that she told officers who seized several golliwogs from an Essex pub they had wasted their time.
But he said he did not think people should display the dolls, which are widely considered to be racist, and suggested it was “not helpful” for ministers to “second guess” police operations.
He asked Mr Harper: “Do you think it’s right that she’s inflamed racists and I’m getting this abuse? I wasn’t getting it before two weeks ago, Mr Harper. I wasn’t getting all these pictures of golliwogs. Why am I getting them now?”
The minister replied: “You didn’t let me finish. I was going to answer … clearly, if you’re receiving abuse on social media, that’s clearly wrong. But the people responsible for any abuse you’re receiving on social media are the people sending it to you.”
Mr Ray fired back: “It really upsets me. Why can’t you just say it was a wrong thing?”
“Adil, to be fair I’m trying to answer your questions and every time I try and answer your questions you interrupt me. So look, I’m trying to answer your questions sensibly,” Mr Harper said.
He added: “I don’t think people should display them. I wouldn’t display them, I don’t think that’s very helpful at all.”
But Mr Harper said he does not think the Home Secretary is “responsible” for the behaviour of those directing online abuse at Mr Ray.
It comes after officers took several golliwogs from the White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex, on April 4, as part of an investigation into an allegation of hate crime reported on February 24.
A source close to Ms Braverman said her unhappiness at the incident had been passed on to the force, as first reported by Mail Online.
The outlet quoted a Home Office source as saying police forces “should not be getting involved in this kind of nonsense” and instead focus on “catching criminals”.
Essex Police subsequently denied it had been reprimanded by the Home Secretary.
Pub owner Benice Ryley has displayed the collection of around 30 dolls, donated by her late aunt and customers, in the pub for nearly 10 years.
She told the PA news agency she could not understand why people might find them offensive and said they were part of her “childhood history”.
The Home Secretary, who once railed against the “tofu-eating wokerati”, is regarded as a divisive figure for her remarks on migration and “culture war” issues.
Senior Conservative peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was among figures to hit out at what she described as “racist rhetoric” from Ms Braverman earlier in the week, telling LBC: “I think the Prime Minister has to get a really strong message that this kind of rhetoric, whether it’s on small boats, whether it’s the stuff she was saying on the weekend which is not based on evidence, not nuanced, not kind of explanatory in any way, it has got to stop.
“And you know, again today, we’ve woken up to a story where she’s having a go at the police for removing golliwog dolls from a pub.”