'I'm not Islamophobic': Lee Anderson defends Sadiq Khan comments and says he 'won't back down'

Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield, speaks to ITV News Central's Alison Mackenzie about the response from his constituents following comments he made about 'Islamists' in London

Lee Anderson has refused to apologise for his attack on Sadiq Khan and said he "won't back down" after he suggested the London mayor is controlled by Islamists.

The MP for Ashfield was suspended from the Conservative Party after he claimed “Islamists” had “got control” of Mr Khan and London.

The former Tory deputy chairman and MP for Ashfield told ITV news that he would choose his "clumsy" words "slightly differently" if he could turn back the clock, but that he "will not back down" on the comments he made.

Speaking to ITV News Central's Political Correspondent Alison Mackenzie, Mr Anderson said: "Islamophobic? What does that mean?

"If there is such a word as Islamophobia, it's an irrational fear of Islam. I'm not scared of any religion, so no I'm not Islamophobic," he added.

"Islamism is a political ideology - it's that I've criticised.

"This is a group of people that are intent on coming onto our streets and trying to affect our democracy which they did last week in parliament by forcing the issue in the Gaza debate.

"It's not racist to have a go at a political ideology. You cannot label a whole section of society based on a tiny group of people who are hell-bent on destroying our democracy."

Mr Anderson said politicians "sit in Parliament in fear of the BAME mob outside screaming and shouting".

"I'm not going to sit down and put up with that," he added. "My conscience is clear and when I put my head on my pillow at night time I go to sleep."

Asked whether he agrees with MP Paul Scully's opinion that there are "no-go" areas in Birmingham, Mr Anderson said: "I have no idea, I don't go to Birmingham."

He said those calling him a racist have "set a race track for me" and are "politically point-scoring".

When asked if he will join the Reform party, Mr Anderson said: "They've not even asked me."

He confirmed that he will be standing at the next election, but refused to reveal for which party.

However on Wednesday afternoon (27 February), GB News revealed that the politician has held private 'one to one' talks with Reform UK leader Richard Tice.

The broadcaster, which employs Mr Anderson, said it understands the pair met on Sunday (25 February) at a Holiday Inn hotel at junction 28 of the M1.

Mr Khan responded to Mr Anderson's comments, which he said "pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred".

"These comments from a senior Conservative are Islamophobic, are anti-Muslim and are racist," he added.

"We’ve seen over the last two days confirmation that over the last few months there’s been an increase in anti-Muslim cases by more than 330%."

The prime minister has denied that Mr Anderson is racist, but said his comments were "wrong, unacceptable and ill-judged."

During a visit to East Yorkshire, Mr Sunak said that the whip was removed from the former deputy chairman because of the comments, but would not answer when asked whether Mr Anderson would be allowed back into the party if he apologised.

Some residents in Ashfield have told ITV News that Mr Anderson should not have made the comments referring to "Islamists".

In response, their MP said: "Hundreds, if not thousands, said I should have said what I said. My inbox is full, I'm getting emails every ten seconds.

"I went into the pubs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Ashfield. The first pub I went into they all stood up and applauded me. That tells you all you need to know about the people of Ashfield."

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