Lee Anderson has Tory whip suspended after ‘refusal to apologise’ for Islamist claim

Lee Anderson lost the Tory whip after refusing to apologise for comments made about the London Mayor, ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton reports

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said Rishi Sunak’s “silence” amounts to “tacit endorsement” of Lee Anderson’s widely criticised remarks about “Islamists” despite the MP being stripped of the Conservative Party whip.

The former deputy party chairman lost the Tory whip after refusing to apologise for the remarks and has said he accepts he left the prime minister with “no option” but to take action.

But Mr Sunak is being pressed by Mr Khan to stop what he described as “moral rot” in the Conservative Party after the comments prompted an outcry.

The Labour mayor said: “Although the whip has been belatedly withdrawn from Lee Anderson, the silence from Rishi Sunak and the Cabinet and tacit endorsement of these vile remarks via Conservative briefings can’t help but lead to the conclusion that Muslims are fair game as far as the Conservative Party is concerned.”

In an appearance on GB News on Friday, Mr Anderson had 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… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the action against Mr Anderson but added that the prime minister's "weakness means Tory MPs can act with impunity".

"It’s right that Lee Anderson has lost the whip after his appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst against Sadiq Khan," Sir Keir wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"But what does it say about the Prime Minister’s judgement that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party?"

"Whether it is Liz Truss staying silent on Tommy Robinson or Suella Braverman’s extreme rhetoric, Rishi Sunak’s weakness means Tory MPs can act with impunity.

"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.

"The Tories may be getting more and more desperate as the election approaches, but Rishi Sunak has a responsibility to stop this slide into ever more toxic rhetoric."

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds described Mr Anderson’s comments as "unambiguously Islamophobic, divisive and damaging" and added it is "right that he has had the whip removed".

Cabinet minister Grant Shapps earlier distanced himself from the remarks but stopped short of condemning his fellow MP, arguing that people should be allowed to “speak their mind”.

However, business minister Nus Ghani and senior backbencher Sir Sajid Javid were among other Tory figures joining a growing chorus of criticism from across the political divide.

Mr Anderson, a 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.

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Reform UK leader Richard Tice previously suggested he has been in touch with senior Conservative MPs who were “absolutely furious” about the government’s handling of immigration.

Mr Anderson was deputy chairman of the Tory Party until resigning in January to rebel against Mr Sunak’s legislation to revive the stalled plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

However, sources close to Mr Anderson told ITV News that it would be "unlikely" that he is planning on joining Reform and suggested that he would try and find a way to rejoin the parliamentary party.

Lee Anderson said he won’t be campaigning in certain Tory constituencies Credit: Jacob King/PA

Mr Anderson was deputy chairman of the Tory Party until resigning in January to rebel against Mr Sunak’s legislation to revive the stalled plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He joined 58 other Conservatives to vote in favour of an amendment that sought to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to prevent or delay a person being sent to Kigali under the scheme.

Mr Anderson has served since 2019 as MP for Ashfield, one of the previously Labour seats in the so-called red wall where voters switched to the Tories post-Brexit to give Boris Johnson his landslide victory.

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