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Anderson has Tory whip suspended after ‘refusal to apologise’ for Islamist claim

24 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Lee Anderson during the launch of the Popular Conservatism movement at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Victoria Jones/PA Wire

The decision was taken following the former Tory deputy chairman’s “refusal to apologise” for the remarks made on Friday, a spokesperson for chief whip Simon Hart said.

Pressure had been mounting on Rishi Sunak to take action over the comments by the Ashfield MP, with Mr Khan saying the “deafening silence” of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet on the matter amounted to condoning racism.

A Conservative source was defending Mr Anderson as recently as Friday evening before he was stripped of party support on Saturday afternoon.

Cabinet minister Grant Shapps earlier distanced himself from the remarks but stopped short of condemning his fellow MP, arguing that people should be allowed to “speak their mind”.

However, business minister Nus Ghani and senior backbencher Sir Sajid Javid were among other Tory figures joining a growing chorus of criticism from across the political divide.

‘Islamists’

In an appearance on GB News on Friday, Mr Anderson had said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

The claim was denounced by former chancellor Sir Sajid as “ridiculous” and by Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s No 10 chief of staff, as a “despicable slur”.

Conservative peer Baroness Warsi, who has criticised her party’s handling of Islamophobia allegations in the past, said his comments were just “the tip of the iceberg” and said the Tories must rid themselves of “extremists”.

Labour had called on Mr Sunak to “show some leadership” and discipline the MP, with shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth writing a letter to the PM demanding the whip be withdrawn.

Following his suspension, Sir Keir Starmer accused the PM of harbouring “extremists” in the party and said his “weakness” allows MPs to “act with impunity”.

Refusal

A spokesperson for Mr Hart said: “Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the chief whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP.”

Mr Anderson said in a statement later: “Following a call with the Chief Whip, I understand the difficult position that I have put both he and the Prime Minister in with regard to my comments.

“I fully accept that they had no option but to suspend the whip in these circumstances.

“However, I will continue to support the Government’s efforts to call out extremism in all its forms – be that antisemitism or Islamophobia.”

Mr Anderson, a standard bearer for the Tory right, will now sit as an Independent unless he defects to another party that chooses to offer him its backing.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice did not rule out opening the door to Mr Anderson after his suspension, telling the PA news agency on Saturday: “I haven’t been in touch with Lee, he hasn’t been in touch with me.

“And we’re just focusing on doing what we’re doing and we seem to be doing something right because we’re going up in the polls and the Tories are sinking, (Rishi) Sunak is sinking and, frankly, that’s what I care about.”

Concerning

Mr Anderson was deputy chairman of the Tory Party until resigning in January to rebel against Mr Sunak’s legislation to revive the stalled plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He joined 58 other Conservatives to vote in favour of an amendment that sought to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to prevent or delay a person being sent to Kigali under the scheme.

Mr Anderson has served since 2019 as MP for Ashfield, one of the previously Labour seats in the so-called red wall where voters switched to the Tories post-Brexit to give Boris Johnson his landslide victory.

On Saturday, Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said the suggestion that Mr Anderson would have kept the Prime Minister’s confidence if he had apologised for his remarks was “deeply concerning”.

“These views are wrong, full stop, and there shouldn’t be conditions on removing them from your party,” she said.

Sir Keir said: “This isn’t just embarrassing for the Conservative Party, it emboldens the worst forces in our politics. Rishi Sunak needs to get a grip and take on the extremists in his party.”

Backlash

In the backlash since Friday, comparisons have been drawn with Labour’s recent handling of a leaked recording in which a parliamentary candidate suggested Israel had allowed Hamas’ October attack as pretext to invade Gaza.

The party stood by Azhar Ali after he apologised, but pulled its support after fresh reports that he had blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of a pro-Palestinian MP emerged.

The Prime Minister was among critics who hit out at Labour at the time for initially defending the aspiring MP, saying Sir Keir had only acted “under enormous media pressure”.

Responding to Mr Anderson’s comments, Mr Khan said they were “Islamophobic, racist” and pour “fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.

“I’m unclear why Rishi Sunak and members of his Cabinet aren’t calling this out or condemning this,” he said.

The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the MP’s suspension but said the Conservative Party has “an Islamophobia problem” and his remarks are “only the tip of an iceberg”.

A Conservative spokesperson said: “An investigation and subsequent independent review, both conducted over several years by professor Swaran Singh, found no evidence of institutional racism in the Conservative Party.”


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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Do Braverman next. Then Truss. And Mogg fibbed to the Queen.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

All three, Sunak, Lee and Truss are going the right way for another Jo Cox…

Sunak does not ‘get it’ as he bats for the other side…

Those who chose him for leader should be on remand for being part of a conspiracy to…

@Slash, Burn and Pillage UK

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Dowden struggles with what constitutes ‘British Values’ while visiting Kuenssberg’s political zoo…

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Bigot Lee Anderson is a nasty piece of work. He along with Suella Braverman & Liz Truss have been race baiting while profiting on far-right TV channels & fascist events overseas. And it’s totally unacceptable that sitting politicians are using their privileged position as public servants to attack minorities, especially Muslims, where if similar were said towards the Jewish community would be cries of antisemitism, a police matter, and calls for that MP to be recalled by his or her constituents, suspended for 35 days, triggering a by-election. 🤬

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
1 month ago

The Tories are right wing scum like Anderson are far Right Fascists and with others from the Tory Party will fit in well with Reform the new English Fascist Party

Llyn
Llyn
1 month ago

So making an explicitly racist comment on Andrew RT Davies’s favourite TV channel gives you an invite to join Reform!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

This is not about Race it is about Religion, they want us to think it racism but it ain’t…

Not many of the Religious on both sides advocating ‘peace and love’ these days…

That is the shameful thing…look at the Russian Orthodox Church nada… The Blair Bush neo-cons have become Trump’s world gang and boy have they built a nest in this country first Russian dirty money now American Fascists here, but especially in the ‘Holy Land’, you do realise they are American emigres…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

The Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish Ultra Right are up for another Crusade…

Ask Blair, he has been a ‘commentator’ on the matter since the death of John Smith and that horrible song…

‘things can only get worse’…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

This is the guy who got all upset and hurt about MPs ‘sniggling’ (it’s sniggering, idiot) at him in the voting lobby. Now don’t laugh at him anymore because he might leave our favourite TV station GBeebies. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Missed the bit where Reform (farage) offered him a job. Yeah, still interested in that party? Wonder who goes there.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

That party is just packed full of idiots who are also dangerous because they pander to primitive instincts, the ultimate “othering” of groups some of whom may pose a threat. Interesting therefore that the party in power for nigh on 14 years has done very little to tackle the real threat among certain groups, Islamofascists and other race/religion based groups. Why ? well they spent too long courting those people among them moneyed backers of extreme cults. When they realised the extent to which these people won’t compromise in their aims the Tories then rolled out a pile of indiscriminate… Read more »

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