THE promotion of Conservative MP Lee Anderson to deputy chair of the party has emboldened the far-right, according to one anti-racist campaigner.

On Friday evening a police van was set alight in the Merseyside village of Knowsley after a far-right rally assembled outside the Suites Hotel, which is being used to accommodate asylum seekers.

A total of 15 people between the ages of 13 and 54 were arrested, with a police officer and two members of the public suffering minor injuries during the incident.

So far, one 19-year-old man has been charged with violent disorder and assault for beating an emergency worker.

It is understood that far-right protesters gathered outside the hotel after rumours spread on social media that a man had made inappropriate advances towards a teenage girl.

Police confirmed that they had arrested a man on suspicion of a public order offence on Thursday.

However, Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy warned people against spreading rumours concerning the incident online.

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“Social media speculation, misinformation and rumour can actually damage the outcome of investigations and cause unnecessary fear and consequent behaviour,” she said. “So I would continue to ask people to be mindful of the damage that such actions can cause."

It took Home Secretary Suella Braverman until Saturday to make a statement condemning the violence.

She said: “I condemn the appalling disorder in Knowsley last night. The alleged behaviour of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence and intimidation.

“Thank you to @merseysidepolice officers for keeping everyone safe.”

But Braverman’s comments have drawn criticism of their own, particularly in a week where Lee Anderson – a Tory MP with alleged links to far-right and white supremacist figures – was elevated to deputy chairman of the party.

Anderson has previously been criticised for calling on migrants arriving into the UK unlawfully to be “sent back the same day” and for advocating for a return of the death penalty.

“If the likes of Lee Anderson are rewarded, it makes some folk who were maybe swithering think that what he has to say is legitimate,” Anne McLaughlin, SNP MP for Glasgow North East, told The National.

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“It’s all part of a deliberate ideological drive to turn people against people e.g people struggling financially against people seeking international protection as is their legal right.

“None of this is an accident, including that tweet which just so happens to put the idea into peoples heads that maybe it was the fault of the asylum seekers themselves.

“These Tories are dangerous, we have to remove ourselves from their control.”

Anti-racism campaigner Zamard Zahid told The National that the UK Government’s policies on migrants were contributing to the hostility shown towards migrants by far-right groups across the UK, including a rally held in Erskine last weekend by the white nationalist group Patriotic Alternative.

“Nothing is more frightening for refugees, asylum seekers and people of colour than watching the violence erupt in Knowsley,” said Zahid.

“It’s a predictable manifestation of the fear and hostility created when scapegoating asylum seekers; a tactic that diverts attention away from government failures on workers’ rights, the NHS and delays in processing asylum cases.

“Glasgow has been here before. The murder of Firsat Yildiz in Sighthill in 2001 happened during a climate of hostility & division stoked by the inept dispersal policy. We don’t want to revisit that time again.

“Scotland has a proud tradition of supporting refugee rights. The Kenmure Street protests showed the feelings of Scotland’s majority.

"But the mobilisation of Patriotic Alternative last week in Erskine was deliberate and they are there to incite anger and division in communities. It’s deeply worrying and distressing.”

It comes after Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman wrote to the Home Secretary, pleading with her to reassess the domestic terror threat posed by far-right groups in the UK.