What do you get when you mix politicians with a football legend and world champion boxer? Not the premise for a bad joke, but the launch of ‘Better Than That’, a campaign run by the Polish Cultural Institute to expose hate crime.
Last week I was in the Houses of Parliament to promote this initiative, which is being supported by Jermain Defoe, Carl Froch, Sir Eric Pickles, Tom Brake and Rosena Allin-Khan. For the avoidance of doubt: Jermain is the football legend, Carl is the championship boxer and the rest of us are politicians of different political stripes.
All of us are united by the idea of the campaign: to expose those who feel that they have license to express hatred against people who have chosen to make our great country their home.
Although it was a pleasure to meet the well-known figures, I was inspired by the dedication of the activists and organisations that have signed up to back this campaign. Groups such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Union of Jewish Students, Jewish Labour Movement, Jewish Leadership Council, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Community Security Trust and many more.
Throughout December, we are encouraging people to join us on social media by using the hashtag #BetterThanThat and share photos of themselves supporting friends and family standing up to hate crime.
We have always prided ourselves on being a tolerant country, and that is why the rise in reported hate crime following the European Referendum shocked the nation.
But even while a few individuals chose to resort to hostility, violence and
bigotry, they were far outnumbered by the thousands and thousands of positive messages and support.
And it was hugely encouraging that so many ordinary people who witnessed verbal and physical abuse reported these incidents to the police. They refused to be bystanders and let these callous actions become the new normal.
Up and down the country, communities came together in solidarity against crimes that were not only meant to break bones, but also instill fear and to break spirits.
No one in the United Kingdom should ever be afraid to walk down the street because of the colour of their skin, the language they speak or their faith.
We all share a common humanity, and we all live in a country that will continue to be defined by tolerance, mutual respect and the rule of law.
We in government have put together a new hate crime action plan to reduce hate crime, but in the end it is up to all of us to go out there and be kind to each other, to build the kind of Britain that we can be proud of, and where our neighbours can feel like they can be themselves.
So let’s all get behind this campaign, and if we see hate crime, expose and report it, because our country is #BetterThanThat.