• Wednesday, February 28, 2024

UK News

Tories suspend MP Anderson over ‘Islamophobic’ comments

Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, and MP for Ashfield, Lee Anderson speaks at the launch of the ‘Popular Conservatives’ movement on February 6, 2024, in London, England (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

The Tories on Saturday (24) suspended their former deputy chairman Lee Anderson from the parliamentary party after he refused to apologise for claiming that London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, was controlled by Islamists.

Pressure had been growing on prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Tories to act following lawmaker Anderson’s contentious remarks Friday, which have been widely condemned as racist and Islamophobic.

It comes as incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have spiked dramatically across the UK amid increased polarisation since the outbreak of the war in Gaza last October.

“Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the chief whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP,” a spokesperson for Tory lawmaker Simon Hart said.

Hart’s chief whip position makes him responsible for internal Tory Party discipline.

On the right-wing GB News channel, Anderson claimed “Islamists” had “got control” of Khan, who was the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital when first elected in London in 2016.

“He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates,” added Anderson, the Tory MP for a seat in central England.

His remarks prompted criticism from across the political spectrum.

Tory business minister Nus Ghani, senior backbencher Sajid Javid and Tory peer Gavin Barwell were among Tories to condemn the comments, with Barwell calling them a “despicable slur”.

The Muslim Council of Britain said they were “disgusting” and extremist.

Anderson, who will now sit as an independent lawmaker in parliament, said late Saturday that he understood his comments had put Hart and Sunak in a “difficult position” but stopped short of apologising.

– Sunak criticised –

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

“However, I will continue to support the government’s efforts to call out extremism in all its forms — be that anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.”

Khan and Labour leader Keir Starmer, who both branded Anderson’s outburst “racist” and “Islamophobic”, also directed their criticism at Sunak, who has not commented on the scandal.

Khan hit out at the “deafening silence” from the Tory leader and his senior ministers, arguing that amounted to condoning racism.

Starmer questioned the wisdom of appointing Anderson as deputy Tory chairman last year. The firebrand MP quit the role last month so that he could rebel against Sunak’s government over immigration.

“What does it say about the prime minister’s judgement that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party,” the Labour leader 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.”

Anderson’s comments followed ex-interior minister Suella Braverman also claiming in a newspaper article that “the Islamists, the extremists and the anti-Semites are in charge now”.

She was responding in part to chaotic scenes in the House of Commons earlier this week over rival motions calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle faced a furious backlash for going against usual practice on that day and allowing a vote on a Labour amendment to a motion.

Hoyle said he wanted the widest possible debate on the issue, but also noted that he was eager to defuse threats of violence against MPs who had so far not voted for a ceasefire in Gaza.


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