Boris would not take the knee for BLM as 'I don't believe in gestures'

Boris Johnson suggested he would not take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, saying people shouldn’t be ‘bullied’ into doing things ‘they don’t necessarily want to’.

The PM said he ‘does not believe in gestures’ during a phone-in on LCB, adding ‘I believe in substance, I believe in doing things’.

He admitted the government needed to do more to improve the lives of black people in the UK but refused to say whether he was a ‘Raab or a Starmer’ – a reference to the foreign secretary who didn’t take the knee and the Labour leader, who did.

‘I would rather see a story of championing success and talking about the opportunities we can open’, the PM said.

He insisted progress had been made on racism in the UK, claiming black representation in the Met Police had ‘massively increased’ during his time as London Mayor and more young black people were getting into the top universities.

He accepted that there ‘are injustices we need to rectify’ but said: ‘I don’t want people to be bullied into doing things they don’t want to do’.

He alleged some police officers felt coerced into taking the knee because their colleagues had done so during recent BLM protests, and that he believed the police should not take the knee as it is not safe for their colleagues.

The symbolic move was popularised in 2016 when NFL star Colin Kaepernick got down on one knee while the US national anthem played before games, to protest against racism and police brutality.

It has become more widespread in the wake of global demonstrations sparked by the killing of an unarmed black man in the US, George Floyd.

Some politicians, including Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner have taken the knee in solidarity with anti-racism protesters in the UK.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab came under fire last month for saying he would not take the knee in support of BLM and attributing the origin of the gesture to Game of Thrones.

The PM’s comments have come under criticism from a number of Labour MPs and other critics who have highlighted his past record on making big gestures – including a recent controversial decision to spend £900,000 making over the prime minister’s plane.

He said: ‘I think about this a lot, its something I want to get right, we need to reflect the country we serve and send out a clear powerful signal [to companies]’.

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