IN springtime every year, Scotland’s anti-racism groups (like their counterparts in London and Cardiff) gather to mark United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and campaign group Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), this year’s protest, on March 16, will march to the Home Office in Glasgow.

The 2024 event comes at an important moment. As we have seen in recent days, the Tory government is up to its neck in a mire of racist and far-right politics.

The suspension of the Conservative Party whip from the (entirely unrepentant) former vice-chairman, the odious Lee Anderson, for claiming that London mayor Sadiq Khan is under the “control” of “Islamists”, is just the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.

In the past, this kind of Islamophobic rhetoric was the stock-in-trade of neo-Nazi groups such as the British National Party. However, now it has reached the upper echelons of the Conservative Party.

READ MORE: Lee Anderson stands by Sadiq Khan attack as Islamophobia row continues

A significant number of Tory MPs, including former prime minister Liz Truss and former home secretary Suella Braverman, are believed to be supporting Anderson.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will say only that Anderson’s words were “wrong”. He has notably stopped short of categorising them as Islamophobic.

Yet Anderson’s anti-Muslim conspiracy theory is akin to the antisemitic “Great Replacement” theory, whereby a supposed conspiracy of powerful Jews is seeking to undermine the nations of the nominal “West” by overwhelming their white populations with non-white (particularly Muslim) migrants.

The Tory leadership (and, shamefully, Labour leader Keir Starmer) seek to slander supporters of Palestinian rights as antisemites. Meanwhile, real, pernicious Judeophobic ideas and far-right conspiracy theories are becoming normalised within the Tory Party.

The National: Lee Anderson

Only last week, Truss – who is preparing to launch a book titled Ten Years To Save The West – was in the US to speak at the ultra-nationalist Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, and to appear on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s show on far-right streaming channel Real America’s Voice.

Truss told Bannon that “a radical Islamic party” could win tomorrow’s Rochdale by-election. This was a flat-out lie. There is no “radical Islamic party” standing in Rochdale. If Truss was referring to the pro-Palestinian campaign of George Galloway, that is simply an Islamophobic slur.

As we in Scotland know only too well, Galloway is a political maverick (impressive, back in the day, in his opposition to the US/UK invasion of Iraq, but dreadful on women’s reproductive rights and Scotland’s right to independence). What he isn’t, however, is a “radical Islamist”.

A more important question than the contradictory politics of Galloway is why Truss chose to appear on Bannon’s show in the first place. Bannon is the ideological lynchpin in the “unite the right” movement which seeks to throw a unifying blanket over mainstream conservatism, far-right nationalism and fascism both in the US and internationally.

READ MORE: Labour 'war-gaming risk Nigel Farage becomes Tory leader'

He is an exponent of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, and an admirer of far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. The Hungarian premier calls refugees from the Middle East and North Africa “Muslim invaders” and refers to Jews as “an enemy” which “speculates with money”.

Notably, during Truss’s TV appearance, Bannon called Tommy Robinson, the UK’s most notorious fascist, a “hero”. To which Truss uttered not a word of disagreement.

The recent cases of Anderson and Truss cannot be dismissed as examples of top Tories “going rogue”. In the UK, as across the world, racist and far-right rhetoric and policy are becoming part of the mainstream on the political right.

Internationally, in recent times, far-right populists (including fascists) have come to power in major democracies. In India, Narendra Modi of the far-right, Hindu nationalist, virulently Islamophobic BJP (a party with deep roots in fascist social movement the RSS) has been prime minister for a decade.

The National: Donald Trump

The US, of course, had Trump as president (and may well have him again). Brazil had its “Trump on steroids”, the horrendously fascistic Jair Bolsonaro, as president from 2019 to 2022. In The Netherlands, the party of the far-right, extreme Islamophobe Geert Wilders won the largest vote in last November’s general election.

Italy currently has a far-right coalition government with Giorgia Meloni, of the fascist Brothers of Italy party, at its head. In France, the fascist National Rally of Marine Le Pen is the second largest party in parliament.

The response of Tory governments in the UK has been to cosy up to these characters. When he was prime minister, Boris Johnson invited Orban to 10 Downing Street for a friendly chat. As recently as December, Sunak spoke at the political festival of the Brothers of Italy – a party that is descended directly from Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party, via its successor the Italian Social Movement (MSI).

We should expect nothing better from a Tory Party that, according to a recent University of Oxford report, routinely criminalises and imprisons asylum seekers (including children, and victims of trafficking and torture) who attempt to come to the UK in small boats. Conservative policy has all but closed off legal means of entry, forcing desperate people to make treacherous crossings of the English Channel.

READ MORE: James Cleverly claims goodwill towards migrants isn't 'bottomless'

Having thus manufactured the small boats “crisis”, successive Tory governments have, between June 2022 and October 2023, convicted 253 people for such “illegal” crossings. In one case, Ibrahima Bah, a teenager from Senegal, was sentenced to nine years and six months of detention.

The overcrowded dinghy the young man was steering got into difficulties, leading to the drowning of at least four people. He was convicted of four counts of manslaughter and one of facilitating a breach of immigration law.

The inhumanity of such a system is matched only by the pernicious plan – so far deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court in London – to forcibly remove people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda.

From Tory Islamophobia to inhumane asylum policies, there are more than enough reasons to join the STUC/SUTR demonstration. I hope you will join us on March 16.

The STUC/SUTR demonstration congregates at BBC Scotland HQ, Pacific Quay, Glasgow, 11am, Saturday March 16. For more details: