Politics latest: Lee Anderson says ‘sign of weakness’ to apologise for Islamophobic Sadiq Khan comments

Sunak condemns Lee Anderson’s comments as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘wrong’

Suspended Tory MP Lee Anderson has doubled down on his Islamophobic remarks about London mayor Sadiq Khan, insisting that apologising would be “a sign of weakness”.

“When you think you are right you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness,” he told GB News on Monday, as Rishi Sunak finally condemned his claims that “Islamists” have “got control” of the London mayor as “wrong”.

The prime minister insisted that his party did not have Islamophobic tendencies in BBC local radio interviews on Monday, as Tory peer Barones Warsi accused the government of having “dragged its heels on any work” to tackle racism against Muslims.

And Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds alleged she had written to Tory party chairs seven times over the past three years calling for them to take action against Islamophobic racism 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.


No 10 reiterates government’s position on defining Islamophobia

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

After Lee Anderson’s comments put a spotlight on the ongoing row over the classification of Islamophobia, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson 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.”

He added: “More broadly in terms of any racism, any prejudice in relation to Islam, the government clearly does not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in that respect and will always seek to combat it, wherever it occurs.”

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 13:18


Lee Anderson says his attack on Sadiq Khan was ‘clumsy’

Here is more from Lee Anderson’s statement via GB News:

The suspended Tory MP said he had made “clumsy” comments “that some people thought were divisive”, adding: “Politics is divisive and I am just incredibly frustrated about the abject failures of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.”

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

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 13:00


Lee Anderson launches fresh attack on Sadiq Khan

In a fresh attack on Sadiq Khan, Lee Anderson accused the London Mayor of “double standards for political benefit”.

The now-independent Ashfield MP said Mr Khan had called for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war “weeks ago with no conditions while the hostages are still there being held at gunpoint by a terrorist organisation.

“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.”

In a statement released via GB News, where he presents a weekly show, he continued: “Khan has stood by and allowed our police to turn a blind eye to the disgusting scenes around Parliament. It is not my intention to upset anyone, I believe in free speech and have 100 per cent respect for people of all backgrounds.”

He concluded: “We’ve got to get Khan out at the elections in May.”

As reported by the website OpenDemocracy, police data suggests only 153 people were arrested at pro-Palestine protests between October and the end of December, just 36 of whom were actually charged.

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 12:48


SNP demands investigation into Labour ‘dirty tricks’ Gaza vote as senior MP admits delaying debate

The SNP is demanding an investigation into the chaos surrounding the Gaza ceasefire vote after a Labour frontbencher admitted intentionally delaying the debate.

Shadow digital minister Sir Chris Bryant said he was encouraged by Labour figures to stall parliamentary proceedings last Wednesday ahead of a vote on the SNP’s motion calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict.

The disruption was aimed at giving Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer time to convince Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to allow MPs a vote on Labour’s amendment to the SNP motion.

The SNP accused Labour of using “every dirty trick in the book” to wreck the vote.

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell has the details:

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 12:02


Lee Anderson says it would be a ‘sign of weakness’ to apologise over Islamophobic comments

Lee Anderson has said it would be a “sign of weakness” for him to apologise over his Islamophobic remarks about Sadiq Khan.

“If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength,” he told GB News. “But when you think you are right you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness.”

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 11:37


Lib Dems urge Sunak not to let Anderson back into Tory party

The Liberal Democrats have urged Rishi Sunak to make clear that Lee Anderson “won’t be let back into the Conservative Party” after his suspension for widely condemned comments about Sadiq Khan.

The party’s 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.”

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 11:33


What is Islamophobia? Definition of anti-Muslim prejudice as Tories suspend MP over rant

The meaning of the term Islamophobia has come under the spotlight following MP Lee Anderson’s suspension for an anti-Muslim rant about Sadiq Khan.

In 2019, the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims produced a working definition in a bid to help tackle the issue while building a common understanding of its cause and consequences.

Its definition read: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Following its publication, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats formally adopted the definition backed by more than 750 British Muslim organisations, 80 academics and 50 MPs.

However, the Conservative Party refused to. At the time, a spokesperson said: “Any such approach would need to be considered carefully to ensure that this would have the positive effect intended.”

My colleague Alex Ross has more details here:

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 11:22


UK election faces threat of rigging by Britain’s enemies using AI deepfakes, home secretary warns

Deepfake videos generated using artificial intelligence could provide the “perfect storm” for the UK’s adversaries to influence the upcoming general election, the home secretary has warned.

James Cleverley said ahead of a planned meeting with tech bosses in Silicon Valley that the era of deepfake videos disrupting elections across the globe was “already in play”.

Our technology reporter Vishwam Sankaran has the full report:

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 11:06


Minister refuses seven times to say Lee Anderson’s anti-Muslim rant was racist

Minister refuses seven times to say Lee Anderson’s anti-Muslim rant was racist

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 11:00


Government has ‘dragged its heels’ on tackling Islamophobia, says Baroness Warsi

Former Tory party co-chair Baroness Warsi has accused the government of having “dragged its heels on any work to tackle” Islamophobia”.

Responding to claims by business secretary Kemi Badenoch that the definition of Islamophobia adopted by all other major political parties “creates a blasphemy law via the back door”, Baroness Warsi said: “This is absolute nonsense Kemi and you know it.”

Alleging that all government work on Islamophobia “has stopped”, Baroness Warsi added: “Ministers do not even engage with the governments OWN cross government working group on your preferred ‘anti Muslim hatred’ [definition].

“The government has dragged its heels on any work to tackle this form of racism. The only structures and programs that still survive are what we put in place during a Cameron government over a decade ago. Amazing flagship programs like Remembering Srebrenica have been defunded.

“No new initiatives, no engagement with communities, no definition Instead culture wars, othering and blatant anti Muslim racism. As for “blasphemy laws” – you know this isn’t true, as was explained and evidenced in our meeting and as you are well aware the definition like the IHRA definition on antisemitism is a NON legally binding working definition not a ‘law’.”

Andy Gregory26 February 2024 10:34

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