Lee Anderson refuses to apologize for Islamist claims about Sadiq

Lee Anderson refuses to apologize for Islamist claims about Sadiq Khan

  • By Kate Whannel
  • Political Reporter, BBC News

February 26, 2024, 11:17 GMT

Updated 1 hour ago

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Former miner Lee Anderson joined the Conservative Party after previously working for a Labor MP

Former Tory party deputy leader Lee Anderson said his words were clumsy but refused to apologize for suggesting that Sadiq Khan was controlled by Islamists.

Mr Anderson was suspended as a Conservative MP over comments he said were born out of frustration with the London mayor's record.

Rishi Sunak described the Ashfield MP's comments as false but avoided saying whether he thought they were Islamophobic.

Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister lacked the “backbone” to denounce Islamophobia.

The Labor leader told reporters: “This is really fundamental. Islamophobia is something that should be addressed by every political leader and the Prime Minister is not denouncing it because he is too weak.”

“It shouldn’t be difficult to denounce comments that are so clearly ignorant, biased and racist. But the leadership of the Conservative government stubbornly refuses to do this.”

The row was sparked by comments Mr Anderson made during a GB News discussion on Friday afternoon.

Mr Anderson said: “I don't really believe the Islamists are in control of our country, but I believe they are in control of Khan and London, and they are in control of Starmer too.”

He later added: “People come in thousands and do whatever they want and they laugh at our police. That’s because of Khan, he actually gave away our capital to his friends.”

Mr Anderson had responded to an article by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman in the Daily Telegraph in which she said: “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the anti-Semites are now in charge.”

Ms Braverman said Islamists had “harassed the Labor Party” over its position on the war in Gaza and that some people at pro-Palestinian marches had links to Islamists.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Sunak said Mr Anderson's choice of words was “unacceptable, it was wrong, that's why the whip had been suspended”.

He said it was “the duty” of parliamentarians not to inflame the debate “in a way that is harmful to others”.

The prime minister also denied that there were anti-Islamic tendencies in his party.

Asked whether Mr Anderson could be readmitted to the party if he apologized for his comments, Transport Minister Mark Harper said: “I will not second-guess the future decisions the party leader might make… a good start would be for that. “ Ask Lee to reflect on what he said and do what was asked of him, which was to retract those comments and issue an apology.

“It’s entirely up to him whether he does that and then we can judge accordingly.”

In a statement released via GB News – which employs the MP as a broadcaster – Mr Anderson said he would not apologise.

“If you think you are right, you should never apologize because that would be a sign of weakness.

“My words may have been clumsy, but my words were born out of pure frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper called on Mr Sunak to “make it clear he….” [Lee Anderson] will not be readmitted to the Conservative Party.”


Labor leader Anneliese Dodds has called on the Conservatives to adopt a definition of Islamophobia drawn up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims.

However, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the Conservatives had instead chosen to use the term “anti-Muslim hatred”, adding that the Labor-backed definition would create “a blasphemy law through the back door”.

Baroness Warsi hit back, saying: “As you are well aware, the definition, like the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism, is a non-legally binding working definition, not 'law'.”

She also said the government had “drawn out any work to combat this form of racism”.

In 2019, the Conservative Party launched an investigation into how the party handled discrimination claims after it was accused of Islamophobic behavior.

The report found evidence of anti-Muslim views at local club and individual levels, but said claims of “institutional racism” were not borne out by the evidence.

“No-go areas”

Asked about Mr Anderson's comments on BBC Radio London, Paul Scully, a Conservative MP and former minister for London, raised concerns that certain places such as Tower Hamlets in London and Sparkhill in Birmingham had become “no-go areas”. “.

He said: “Lee tends to shoot from the hip. Sometimes he goes too far. This is an opportunity where he went way, way too far.”

Birmingham Labor MP Jess Phillips called on Mr Scully to apologize for his comments on Sparkhill, which she described as “complete nonsense”.

West Midlands Conservative Mayor Andy Street said: “The idea of ​​Birmingham having a 'no-go' zone is new to me and I suspect the good people of Sparkhill. It really is time for the people of Westminster to stop the nonsensical insults and experiences in the real world.”

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Mr Sunak disagreed with Mr Scully's comments, adding: “The Prime Minister has spoken before about the value of the very diverse communities and societies we have in the UK.”

In a later interview with BBC London, Mr Scully denied labeling Tower Hamlets or Sparkhill as “no-go areas”, stressing that this was a “perception”.

“There are areas where there is a tiny minority of people who are uncomfortable because they are not of their religion and their culture and who misinterpret their own doctrine,” he said.

Mr Scully added: “If I misspoke or caused a fuss, I apologize.”