Priti Patel has suggested England’s footballers should not take the knee as she labelled it "gesture politics".

The Home Secretary also refused to condemn football fans who booed players for taking the knee, saying it was "a choice for them".

Her stance appears to contradict Boris Johnson’s position, after his official spokesman said the Prime Minister wanted the public to "cheer them on, not boo" at the tournament.

Asked about the England football team taking the knee, Ms Patel told GB News: "I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well."

Asked whether England fans were right to boo the national team, she said: "That’s a choice for them, quite frankly."

Pressed on whether she would boo the team for taking the knee, the Home Secretary added: "I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that."

She claimed the Black Lives Matter protests last summer had a "devastating" impact on policing as she criticised the toppling of the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. "It’s all well to support a cause and make your voices heard," she said. "But actually, quite frankly, and we saw last year in particular with some of the protests that took place, I speak now very much from what I saw in the impact on policing. It was devastating.

"Not only that, I just don’t subscribe to this view that we should be rewriting our history, pulling down statues, the famous Colston statue, and what’s happened there. Toppling statues is not the answer.

"It’s about learning from our past, learning from our history and actually working together to drive the right outcomes."

Kalvin Phillips and Mason Mount take the knee before the England v Croatia match at Wembley Stadium on Sunday

Credit: Andy Rain/Reuters

Last week, when asked if Mr Johnson backs players taking the knee, the Number 10 spokesman said: "Yes. The Prime Minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

"The Prime Minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo."