The media and policy contexts of Tyrone Mings’ extraordinarily powerful tweet

13th July 2021

Yesterday the England international and Aston Villa footballer Tyrone Mings posted this tweet:

There is no equivocation: the express charge – that the home secretary is both stoking the fire of racism and a hypocrite – made by a senior and outstanding footballer is about as serious a thing that could be said by the one of the other.

That it is a quote tweet of the home secretary – and thereby both a direct response to and gloss of the minister’s tweet – makes it all the more striking.

Even without knowing anything more of the circumstances, it is a text of extraordinary power.

And at the time of posting this blog, the tweet had over 400,000 likes and 140,000 retweets/quote tweets – dwarfing the figures of the home secretary’s tweet.

It would appear our home secretary’s populism is not that popular.


Understanding the various contexts for Tyrone Mings’ tweet adds to and does not diminish its force.

But such is the power of the tweet the contexts are also worth considering.


One context is that this is the latest contribution from an individual with an open and long-standing interest in racial and social justice.

This is Tyrone Mings last year in Birmingham at the protests at the death of George Floyd:

Unlike politicians, for him this is no bandwagon.


Another context is that social media allows there to be a countering and opposite reaction to the vile populism of politicians and their media supporters.

This is the media context of the tweet.

As this blog set out yesterday, the fragmentation of political parties and of the media enable knavish and foolish politicians an extensive reach for their culture war politics.

But it is not all one way.

The populists can be confronted and exposed.

The challenge for those who care for social justice and liberalism is to counter and oppose the illiberal populists on a sustainable basis.


A further context is that Mings’ tweet undermines the attempts by the current government to evade responsibility for stoking the racism that manifested itself after England’s defeat – but is always present in our society.

This is the policy context of the tweet.

The government’s current ploy is to blame the social media companies with the threats, no doubt, of ‘tougher measures’ and perhaps even ‘crackdowns’.

But it is the ministers and their political and media supporters who derided as ‘gesture politics’ the direct moves by the footballers to show the watching supporters that racism was unacceptable.

Of course: social media companies need to take more responsibility – but they are conduits.

The footballers were instead confronting racism at its source – and government ministers mocked them for doing so.

Mings’ tweet exposed the emptiness and cynicism of the government’s political tactics.


Any powerful political utterance will work on a number of levels.

But sometimes, that a statement has force in a number of contexts is an implication of someone having the courage and presence to say the right thing at the right time to the right person.

The implications and the contexts then take care of themselves.

The populism of illiberal politicians rarely have the substance and the effects of statements such as Mings.

It is almost as if the populism of the home secretary and others in the cabinet is the true ‘gesture politics’.

And they should remember that those who start culture wars can also lose them.


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32 thoughts on “The media and policy contexts of Tyrone Mings’ extraordinarily powerful tweet”

  1. Great post about the essential context & hypocrisy of the stoking and then criticising racism. The same process is currently being mirrored in the media and political vendettas against other minorities eg trans people

  2. Thanks David. Perfect analysis. I hope Tyrone Mings gets the support and guidance he needs to continue focusing this energy and, dare I say, anger, into this kind of articulate leadership that brings people with him. Such a good footballer who will play for England many more times I hope.

  3. “The footballers were instead confronting racism at its source – and government ministers mocked them for doing so.

    Mings’ tweet exposed the emptiness and cynicism of the government’s political tactics.”
    I loved this analysis. Spot on.

  4. Absolutely right, and needed saying.

    Let us hope it is quite a long time before the Home Secretary and Prime Minister think it worthwhile to appeal to the lowest level of human motivation again.

    We can but hope.

  5. I think the only point I disagree with, David is ‘It is almost as if the populism of the home secretary and others in the cabinet are the true ‘gesture politics’.’ Johnson has nothing but gesture in his armoury. Patel is driven by something much darker and Johnson’s travelling circus has given her an audience.

    Johnson’s entire political career, and most of his journalistic one, have been about gesture rather than substance, about seeking approval. He feeds off the endorsement of the baying crowd and, addicted, rouses the rabble to roar his name with yet more outlandish and outrageous gestures.

    I honestly believe he knows this is wrong, just as a junkie wants to kick the junk. But he can’t kick it, rallying the mob at the expense of the common good in search of another quick hit.

    And as a junkie’s family and friends fade away in despair, Johnson knows he’s lost the support of his peers and so he reaches out to anyone who’ll feed his need. Egged on by the lynch-mob he’s gathered to him, he is happy to hang the the long-term consequences; the short-term rush of adulation is all he craves.

    And this is why the likes of Patel, Rees-Mogg, Raab et al encircle him. They’re the dealers, and they see the opportunity to exploit his addiction to pursue extreme policies that no Prime Minister in our lifetimes would countenance, regardless of political colour. These sharks feed Johnson’s addiction and he helps sell their populist smack. The terraces roar for him and he is sated for a few more minutes.

    For Johnson, there is nothing left but gesture.

    For us…?

    1. All true but still look at the opinion polls. Whilst people need to guard against them and us also against assuming rent-a-crowd noise equals the view of society generally there does seem to be a consistent coalition of nationalists and libertarians who forgive you Government anything to use it the further their ends on a wide spectrum from rabid ignorance to great sophistication. Determined brave leadership framed by way of sympathetic understanding of loss of role and position with a focus on equity but primarily driven by truth to powered by responsive reciprocity communicating plans also involving the disaffected to address angry dystopia as a community.

    2. I think this is very perceptive, and fully plan to use some of your insights in comments under my name elsewhere!

      Seriously, you have put your finger on a serious issue about our Prime Minister. He is a man – not without intellect – who sees himself, I am sure, as doing his utmost to give breath to the wishes and aspirations of ‘less fortunate’ citizens but because of a fundamental weakness in his own character is a tool of much more purposive and malign characters around him with the result that, in the immortal words of Eddie Mair he is “A nasty piece of work”.

      1. With the greatest respect, Johnson does his utmost to give breath to the wishes and aspirations of those best able to serve his own.

    3. If something is wrong, and yet one knowingly carries on doing it for one’s entire career, and indeed builds one’s career around doing it, then it is not excusable. To explain and excuse away Johnson as being a mere addict led astray by dealers, is in my opinion incorrect. Yes we can all see that Johnson has been used, but no more or no less than many others (Farage, Cummings, Tommy Robinson, etc) and they have all done this knowingly and complicitly. We should not serve them up with apologies in advance and we should not assist them in their efforts to lessen the charge sheet. If we do, then we become part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

    4. I agree largely with you, Neville, but would say this: He has used terms and similes repeatedly that I hope most of us could never allow over our lips or onto a page – the mere thought of uttering them actually makes me feel sick. I don’t think anyone with any real morality could do that once, let alone regularly.

      The word I use for Johnson is amoral, and I think it is apt. He has no wish to kick anything because he makes up his own rules as he goes along, and feels bound by none of those that the majority respect.

  6. Mings is spot on and I’m grateful to David for carefully stating what’s happened.

    The present administration has targeted and continues to target its messaging at some really bad people. It’s a plinth for some of the worst human sentiments. Even though it provokes heroic pushback, I think it introduces or promotes a kind of poison. By calling it out Mings shows more leadership than virtually the whole government bench.

    1. Their content is still provided by third parties, even taking algorithms at their highest.

  7. Thank heavens we have young, black, articulate footballers with integrity and a sense of social justice to expose the hypocrisy and racism of members of our governing administration. Could we exchange the current cabinet for the current England football team? At least we could trust the footballers to do their honest best.

  8. Thank you, David. Spot on again.

    Nathalie Elphicke MP has apologised for suggesting that Marcus Rashford should have concentrated on his football rather than playing politics. The apology is, I imagine, insincere, but the fact that it was made indicates something encouraging about public opinion.

  9. Can we hope that with the prominence that has been given to Tyrone Ming’s statement, plus the loss of one by election and failure to capture another seat recently, are a sign that finally the public are finally turning against this Government of self-serving liars and cheats?

  10. The England football squad has more talent playing and on the bench than the government has in cabinet.
    Will the tweets of government ministers come back to haunt them when the COVID data continues to show rising infection. Will the scientists and irresponsible public be blamed?

  11. Alas, the whole point of the culture wars is that, within our ludicrous electoral system, you can win elections by focussing on a minority of electors. The sort of people who respond positively to racist dog-whistles, and will double down when challenged by articulate footballers are one such minority.

    It is sad. It makes me angry.

    It also makes me hugely proud that Messrs Mings and Rashford and Southgate have so articulately written rebuffs to Patel and Johnson

  12. This, and your two preceding blogs, together have my mind buzzing. The country is in huge peril from the power games that are being played by one political party (okay, this was stoked up by another, now largely redundant party, and that – and this – party were in turn fuelled by a most disreputable faction based over the Pond). Of course we know that, at root, this is all about money, using racism and ‘us-against-them-ism’, to ensure power is held by a few who can then milk it for what it’s worth – and it is worth an awful lot.

    The victims? – Well, we all are (unless we’re one of ‘them’), though it’s the minorities, the ‘others’ on whom targets are placed to help keep the impetus going.

    This is no new story, if we take a historical view of hegemony, but it is a novel one for these times on these shores. I know I’m not alone in feeling terrified at times about where we’re headed. It’s not enough now to be affronted by an ex Prime Minister who has used his contacts to make millions. At one time, we’d be saying to ourselves that we’d boot them out at the next elections – and that often happened. But this lot are very serious in their intent to “keep on buggering us up” (with apologies to Winston Churchill) and taking us for mugs. Their use of legal instruments to reduce the power of protest, to skew our humanity towards others, and to give their pals the means to milk the State, seem to know no bounds.

    Which brings me to today’s topic. I keep hoping that something will create sufficient waves to cause something – a movement, a protest (though how we can now protest is questionable), a counter-reaction of significance – to stop this shocking rot in our national morality. Perhaps this is it. I want to believe that it is, though after 5 years of despair it is increasingly hard to see how.

    Thank you, though, for these three posts, David. I shall re-read them later.

  13. Yes.
    As a semi-aside there seems to be a subsidiary matter that has perhaps gone … somewhere, and that is hypocrisy. For that term to stick requires memory, and essentially nothing in this culture prizes memory.

  14. If you were born and bred in England why is it so difficult for some to admit they were born into a racist country?

    If England had won the footie would everyone now be waving their flags in the air before living together happily ever after?

    If you were born and bred in Wales Scotland or Ireland how would you view events?

  15. UK Home Secretaries frequently seem odd fish. Perhaps they are still selected for the ability to sign off a few hangings then go for a good lunch.

    The thought occurs – is Boris lining himself up for an ‘OK, I was wrong, I quit’ moment when his Covid strategy does not go so well? Then he can stop wasting time on several failed processes and go and earn some money.

  16. As you rightly aver (and I have been tweeting this today) the government are the true practitioners of ‘Gesture Politics’. Sadly too many do not see beyond this, and thus ministers make a mockery of us all.

    I especially love your line; “It would appear our home secretary’s populism is not that popular”.

    Thank you for continuing to be a light for myself & others who find ourselves “in dark places, when all other lights go out”.

  17. Honestly, I find this tiptoeing and hair splitting a bit puzzling. Johnson is on record with picaninni, watermelon smiles, letterboxes and robbers. Why aren’t people calling him out en masse? I find this, very British, holding back mind boggling. They have been dog whistling for decades. It’s the well known strategy of a party (English Conservatives, US Republicans) which represents the economic interests of a tiny minority to expand its electoral base. Brexit was partly motivated by it.

  18. I have read many of your blogs and e-mails and follow you on FB (have no time for Twitter). This is so well said, I think I will in the time honoured fashion merely respond Hear Hear and thankyou for taking the time to let people know your thoughts on this matter. The people who have physically placed tributes to another young footballer, Marcus Rashford have also shown their support for him, but what Mings did as you so eloquently point out is directly rebuke (for that is what it is) our current Home Secretary.

    We are (those of us opposed to racism) fighting for the very soul of a once great country that is being laid low by opportunistic hypocritical, populists and they need to be sent packing!

  19. “Those who start culture wars can lose them”, and this government seems to have picked its enemies very poorly.

    Indeed, the outpouring of emotion for the team and its black members in particular is exceptional (see, for example, ).

    I can’t remember much like it since the paroxysm of grief and love for Diana when she died. And Boris & Co’s sins are far beyond failing to lower a flag to half mast or being slow to return from Balmoral.

  20. I’m increasingly seeing the idea that Southgate, Rashford, Sterling and the rest.of the team would make a better government than our current one.

    Will the future see this moment as the kickocracy vs the kakistocracy?

  21. The Home Secretary is a venal and vicious individual with a limited intellect. This was cruelly exposed on her Question Time appearance in which she persisted in advocating for the deterrent effect of the death penalty despite being confronted with evidence of innocent people being wrongly convicted quite regularly. She appeared then, and has continued to appear, a stupid authoritarian.

    This is a very elegant piece indeed. I very much hope those trying to ride the tiger of racism & xenophobia in the UK end up inside the tiger.

  22. If you followed the Trump ascendancy as closely as I did you would now recognise the exact same dismay, outrage and despair of the majority in Boris Johnson. They are both manipulated puppets of a much stronger right wing force supported by Murdoch’s News International. Just as in the US this government will become more outrageous but I believe the tide is at last turning, scales are falling from eyes ( even within the Conservative Party itself ) . Look at the Lincoln Project in US – all Republicans who stood up against amoral Trumpians who had sold their souls to the devil – that and the black vote all helped to get Biden elected. My faith is in young people like these wonderful articulate footballers who see our own amoral populist and his entourage for what they are and are not afraid to speak out.

    1. Time for an equivalent (Lincoln) group of ex conservatives. There are more than enough of them and they just need a name. Any ideas? Neither Thatcher nor Churchill works.

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