UK Tories suspend MP from parliamentary party over 'Islamophobic' comments

UK Tories suspend MP from parliamentary party over 'Islamophobic' comments
Lee Anderson made the 'Islamophobic' comments during an interview on the right-wing channel GB News on Friday, and refused to apologise for the remarks.
2 min read
24 February, 2024
Lee Anderson was a Conservative MP for Ashfield, but will now stand as an independent MP [Photo by Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Britain's ruling Conservatives on Saturday suspended their former deputy chairman from the parliamentary party, after he refused to apologise for saying London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan was controlled by Islamists.

Pressure had been growing on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Tories to act following lawmaker Lee Anderson's contentious remarks Friday, which have been widely condemned as racist and Islamophobic.

It comes as incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have spiked dramatically across the UK amid increased polarisation since the outbreak of the war in Gaza last October.

"Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the chief whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP," a spokesperson for Tory lawmaker Simon Hart said on Saturday.

Hart's chief whip position makes him responsible for internal Conservative Party discipline.

On the right-wing GB News channel Friday, Anderson claimed Islamists had "got control" of Khan, who was the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital when first elected in London in 2016.

"He's actually given our capital city away to his mates," added Anderson, the Tory MP for a seat in northern England.

His remarks prompted a flood of criticism from across the political spectrum, with Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds calling them "unambiguously racist and Islamophobic".

Conservative business minister Nus Ghani, senior backbencher Sajid Javid and Tory peer Gavin Barwell were among senior Tory figures to join the complaints, with Barwell calling the comments a "despicable slur".

The Muslim Council of Britain said they were "disgusting" and extremist.

Khan, who labelled the comments "anti-Muslim" and "racist", had earlier Saturday complained about "deafening silence" from Sunak and his senior ministers in response, arguing that amounted to condoning racism.

Within hours, Hart's office had issued its statement announcing Anderson's suspension. The MP was yet to comment on the decision.

Anderson will now sit as an independent lawmaker in parliament.