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Lee Anderson refuses to apologise for ‘Islamists’ remarks

26 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

Lee Anderson has doubled down on his criticism of Sadiq Khan and refused to apologise for remarks that sparked an Islamophobia row, which Rishi Sunak condemned as “wrong”.

The former Tory deputy chairman on Monday admitted his original remarks were “clumsy”, but said saying sorry “would be a sign of weakness”.

It came after the Prime Minister broke his silence on the matter to denounce Mr Anderson’s comments that cost him the Conservative whip.

The Ashfield MP was suspended over the weekend after he claimed “Islamists” had “got control” of Mr Khan and London.

Divisive 

On Monday, Mr Anderson told GB News: “If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.

“But when you think you are right you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness.”

In a statement to the channel, where he presents a weekly show, he said he had made comments “that some people thought were divisive”.

“Politics is divisive and I am just incredibly frustrated about the abject failures of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan,” Mr Anderson said.

“My words may have been clumsy but my words were borne out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city.”

Racist abuse

In a fresh attack on Mr Khan, the now-independent MP said: “Hundreds of people had been arrested for racist abuse on these marches and we barely hear a peep from the mayor.

“If these marches were about something less fashionable, Sadiq Khan would have been the first to call for them to be cancelled. It’s double standards for political benefit.”

Mr Sunak said Mr Anderson had been deprived of the Tory whip because his “choice of words wasn’t acceptable, it was wrong”.

But he refused to describe the MP’s comments as Islamophobic when pressed repeatedly, telling broadcasters in Yorkshire: “I think the most important thing is that the words were wrong, they were ill-judged, they were unacceptable…

“It’s important that everybody, but particularly elected politicians, are careful with their words and do not inflame tensions.”

The Prime Minister declined to criticise former home secretary Suella Braverman, who claimed “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now”.

“I think that those comments were not about an individual in particular,” he said, adding that “it’s important that we call out” the kind of “unacceptable” scenes “we have been witnessing on our streets in recent times”.

Asked whether his party has an Islamophobia problem, Mr Sunak told local BBC radio stations in the morning: “No, of course it doesn’t”.

The Prime Minister said it was “not a fair characterisation at all” to say he has condemned antisemitism while overlooking Islamophobia in his own party.

“Racism or prejudice of any kind” is “completely unacceptable” and “not British”, he said.

A Conservative party source had defended Mr Anderson’s comments on Friday night, before he was stripped of party support on Saturday amid mounting condemnation from across the political divide.

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

Reform UK leader Richard Tice did not rule out opening the door to Mr Anderson after his suspension.

In a statement, he said: “Lee Anderson may have been clumsy in his precise choice of words, but his sentiments are supported by millions of British citizens, including myself. Never has Westminster and the craven left leaning Establishment been so out of touch with ordinary people.

“I do not and will not give a running commentary on any discussions I have with any MPs, but those MPs have my number.”

Mr Anderson’s comments have put a spotlight on the ongoing dispute over the classification of Islamophobia.

Downing Street reiterated the Government’s position of refusing to back the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims’ 2019 definition.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “As the Government has stated previously, there are issues in relation to the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia, which conflates race with religion, does not address sectarianism within Islam, and may unintentionally undermine freedom of speech.

“But as I’ve said, we have always been clear that this Government does not and will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred.”

Tory peer Baroness Warsi criticised Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch after she said the definition supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats “creates a blasphemy law via the back door if adopted”.

“This is absolute nonsense Kemi,” Baroness Warsi, who was a cabinet minister in Lord David Cameron’s government, tweeted.

“The government has dragged its heels on any work to tackle this form of racism.

“The only structures and programmes that still survive are what we put in place during a Cameron government over a decade ago.

“No new initiatives, no engagement with communities, no definition. Instead culture wars, othering and blatant anti-Muslim racism.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Sunak does not see Islamophobia as a problem…simple !

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Seems the party that is removing the whip for such remarks is the Conservative party. Mr Sunak doesn’t see it, he approved of 30p, he brought braverman back into the party. Not very bright is he.

Now, 30p, he stands by his comments cos he doesn’t want to look weak? What about making comments so inflammatory that is causes harm and hate to spread. He would rather try to look strong than have compassion and understanding(he doesn’t look strong, just a fool). What a twp.

ARTD, anyone asked the Welsh Cons branch manager what he has been told to think?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Which Muppet does Lee remind me of? Sam Eagle or Waldorf ?

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Beaker more like.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

Ben Jennings has a great cartoon of him in the Guardian…

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