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Rishi Sunak condemns Lee Anderson’s ‘Islamists’ claim

26 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Photo Henry Nicholls/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak has said MP Lee Anderson’s remarks that sparked an Islamophobia row “weren’t acceptable, they were wrong”, as he denied the Conservative Party has Islamophobic tendencies.

The Prime Minister addressed the row on Monday after facing growing calls to speak out about the former Tory deputy chairman’s comments.

Mr Anderson lost the Conservative whip over the weekend after failing to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had “got control” of Sadiq Khan and London.

Condemn

But critics including the London mayor and Tory peer Baroness Warsi hit out at Mr Sunak for failing to explicitly condemn the comments.

Speaking to local BBC radio stations during a visit to North Yorkshire, the Prime Minister said: “I think it’s incumbent on all of us, especially those elected to Parliament, not to inflame our debates in a way that’s harmful to others.

“Lee’s comments weren’t acceptable, they were wrong. And that’s why he had the whip suspended.”

Mr Sunak continued: “Clearly his choice of words wasn’t acceptable, it was wrong.”

“Words matter, especially in the current environment where tensions are running high and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to choose them carefully.”

Asked whether his party has an Islamophobia problem, the Prime Minister said: “No, of course it doesn’t”.

Mr Sunak 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.

He said he is proud of the fact that “it wasn’t a big deal” when he became the first British-Asian prime minister, adding: “And that’s because we’re the most successful multi-ethnic democracy in the world.”

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.

Unacceptable

Ministers previously said he was deprived of the whip because he did not apologise, while Mr Sunak appeared to go further by saying he was suspended because of his “unacceptable” comments.

It came after one of the most fractious weeks in Westminster in recent years, which saw Parliament descend into chaos over a row about the handling of a Commons vote on Gaza and concerns for MPs’ safety.

Mr Anderson, the Ashfield MP who is 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.

Cabinet minister Mark Harper on Monday left the door open for Mr Anderson’s possible return to the Tory party.

Asked what he needs to say to be welcomed back, the Transport Secretary told Sky News: “I hope he will reflect on what he said and he will retract those comments and apologise…

“He’s contributed a lot in the past. I’d like to see him be able to contribute to the Conservative Party in the future.”

Asked what message the consideration of a return to the party sends to British Muslims, Mr Harper said his suspension “sends a very strong message that we don’t tolerate people saying such things in the Conservative Party”.

Racist

He declined to say whether Mr Anderson’s remarks were racist despite being pressed repeatedly, reiterating only that they were “wrong” and “not true”.

Tory former minister Baroness Warsi, who previously urged Mr Sunak to “call out anti-Muslim racism”, on Monday accused the Government of “dragg(ing) its heels on any work to tackle this form of racism”.

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

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said condemned Mr Anderson’s remarks as “appalling” and said they were “clearly not to do with who Sadiq Khan is, it was a slur that was directed at him because of Islamophobia”.

She said she has written to the Conservative Party chairs seven times over the past three years calling for them to take action against Islamophobia in the party.

“This isn’t something that popped up five minutes ago, it is a continuing concern,” Ms Dodds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak needs to condemn Anderson’s comments for what they are, Islamophobic and racist, and make clear he won’t be let back into the Conservative Party.”


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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

The same Sunak that put Anderson in post is surprised that Anderson did an impersonation of Anderson? Well I never. His is the party where it is all happening. Now, about Braverman, another one that is on Andersons side of the street. The UK Government Minister that used off the books email for secret stuff and jumped before she was pushed then a week later Sunak put her in post after saying “Integrity, Professionalism and Accountability” on the steps of No10. Anything? Truss at a US far right nut case conference where other attendees include some extremely vile people (US… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

There is a strong resonance with Mr Modi’s take on religious tolerance in Sunak’s words…

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

While the comments on Khan by Anderson are totally unacceptable I struggle to see how they are racist. As far as I know Islam is a multi racial religion as is Christianity, Buddhism etc etc. It is not race specific.

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

You may be correct in what you say Linda but unfortunately the knuckle draggers in society don’t share the wisdom & insight of more enlightened & tolerant souls. The likes of the vile Anderson & Braverman know who their audience are & play to that demographic to the max. They cause outrage with isolated pronouncements but look carefully as there’s an incessant drip drip of this over a period of time which works itself into the minds of people looking to vent their rage against someone/anyone that they feel deserve it. They see & listen to politician’s spinning their filth… Read more »

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Jones

I agree with your post Alan, clearly the statements you refer to are both unacceptable, prejudiced and incendiary. However I do feel the information given should be correct. The statements should be condemned for what they are not for what they are not. The membership of any international religion, including Islam, is not exclusive to any particular race or skin colour. Thus it is misleading to refer to the comments as racist. Wrong interpretations wont help, people will see through it.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Racism and Religionism all mixed up on the Tory front benches and now in peoples minds…

Words with serious meanings need to be kept apart…

As they shadow box in parliament we see that in two years of fighting the Ukraine army have had pretty much the same death toll as the people of Gaza in less than five months…

Sunak is blind to the suffering of the people of Gaza, why, only he knows!…

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
Karl
Karl
1 month ago

Weak man, profiting on a few days of riling up racist and bigots to his party. Thats all the Tories are now, populist as Trump. Making life hell for many and fueling hate at the levels that gets you war.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
1 month ago

It took Sunak the poison Dwarf long enough it issue an apolagy there was no real heart in it just that he was forced to do it

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

What is it with Rishy Sunak who just can’t say that comments by bigoted Lee Anderson were Islamophobic when he made false defamatory accusations towards London Mayor Sadiq Khan. If it were against Jewish people would be would instantly called out as antisemitism as he has on numerous occasions in interviews on radio , TV and in the House of Commons at PMQs. And today Rishy Sunak made a statement saying he was wrong to say it but again never said it was islamophobic. The irony is Anderson had the Tory whip removed only because he refused to say sorry… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Should the Telegraph newspaper be bought by Abu Dhabi royalty will it continue with its anti-Islam stance ?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Lee refuses to apologise to Khan claiming he was right about being under the control of Islamists…

While refusing to admit he dances to the same tune as Truss…

As played by American Fascists…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

The gap Sunak left was too long and it’s too late. He should have told Dowden to get on with it during his Sunday rounds. The best way to condemn this nonsense is to EXPEL 30p and Cruella permanently.

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