Lee Anderson refuses to apologise for Islamist claim

Lee Anderson and Rishi SunakPA Media

Ex-Tory party deputy chair Lee Anderson has said his words were clumsy but has refused to apologise for suggesting Sadiq Khan is controlled by Islamists.

Mr Anderson was suspended as a Tory MP following his remarks, which he says were borne out of frustration at the London mayor’s record.

Rishi Sunak called the Ashfield MP’s comments wrong but avoided saying if he thought they were Islamophobic.

Sir Keir Starmer said the PM lacked the “backbone” to call out Islamophobia.

The Labour leader told reporters: “This is really basic. Islamophobia is something which should be called out by every political leader, and the prime minister isn’t calling it out because he’s too weak.”

In an Evening Standard article Mr Khan said Mr Anderson had “poured petrol on the fires of hatred”.

“It shouldn’t be hard to call out comments that are so unambiguously ignorant, prejudiced and racist. Yet those at the top of the Conservative government are stubbornly refusing to do so.”

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

Mr Anderson said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London, and they’ve got control of Starmer as well.”

He later added: “People are just turning up in their thousands, and doing anything they want, and they are laughing at our police. This stems with Khan, he’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

Mr Anderson had been responding to a Daily Telegraph article by ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman, in which she said: “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now.”

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

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Sunak said Mr Anderson’s choice of words “wasn’t acceptable, it was wrong, that’s why the whip was suspended”.

He said it was “incumbent” on parliamentarians not to inflame debate “in a way that is harmful to others”.

The prime minister also denied there were Islamophobic tendencies in his party.

Sadiq Khan

PA Media

Asked if Mr Anderson could be readmitted to the party if he apologised for his comments, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “I’m not going to second-guess the future decisions the chief whip might make… a good start would be for Lee to reflect on what he said and to do what he was asked to do which was to retract those comments and to 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 – who employ the MP as a broadcaster – Mr Anderson said he would not be saying sorry.

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

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

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper told Mr Sunak to “make clear he [Lee Anderson] won’t be let back into the Conservative Party”.


Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds has urged the Conservatives to adopt a definition of Islamophobia, as drawn up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims.

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

Baroness Warsi hit back, saying “as you are well aware, the definition like the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition on antisemitism is a non-legally binding working definition, not a ‘law’.”

She also said the government had “dragged its heels on any work to tackle this form of racism”.

In 2019, the Conservative Party launched an inquiry into how the party handles discrimination claims, following allegations of Islamophobic behaviour.

The report found evidence of anti-Muslim views at local association and individual level 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 – said concerns that certain places such as Tower Hamlets in London and Sparkhill in Birmingham had become “no-go areas” needed “to be addressed”.

He said: “Lee tends to shoot from the hip. He sometimes goes too far. This is an occasion when he has gone way, way too far.”

Birmingham Labour MP Jess Phillips urged Mr Scully to apologise for his comments about Sparkhill, which she labelled “utter drivel”.

Conservative West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “The idea that Birmingham has a ‘no-go’ zone is news to me, and I suspect the good people of Sparkhill. It really is time for those in Westminster to stop the nonsense slurs and experience the real world.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Sunak disagreed with Mr Scully’s comments, adding: “The PM has talked before about the value of the very diverse communities and societies that we have in the UK.”

Defending his comments in a later interview with BBC London, Mr Scully said he was referring to a “perception”.

“There are areas where there are a tiny minority of people who make people uncomfortable about not being of their religion, of their culture, who are misinterpreting their own doctrine,” he said.

Mr Scully added: “If I’ve spoken mistakenly or created upset then I apologise.”

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