Lineker thanks followers for ‘love and support’ after asylum comments criticism

Gary Lineker has said he has never known such “love and support” after Home Secretary Suella Braverman branded the TV presenter’s comments “irresponsible” when he compared the language used to launch a new asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

The Match Of The Day host was also criticised by immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who said he is “so far out of step with the British public” after he called the Government’s proposed measures “cruel”.

A BBC source told the PA news agency the corporation is taking the matter “seriously” and expects to have a “frank conversation” with the 62-year-old.

Following the criticism on Wednesday, Lineker wrote on Twitter “anything going on?” and then followed this up with another post saying the “freedom of speech champions” were “demanding silence from those with whom they disagree”.

“I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly),” he also wrote. “I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice.”

On Tuesday, Lineker wrote on Twitter about a Home Office video in which Ms Braverman unveiled the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats and said the UK is being “overwhelmed”.

The ex-England striker wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”

Lineker is not a permanent member of staff at the BBC and is a freelance broadcaster not responsible for news or political content so different rules apply on impartiality.

In response, Ms Braverman told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) she was “very disappointed” by his comments.

She added: “Equating our measures – which are lawful, necessary and fundamentally compassionate – to 1930s Germany is irresponsible and I disagree with that characterisation.”

GMB presenter Susanna Reid also grilled Ms Braverman after the minister said there is “likely billions” of migrants “eager” to come to the UK, saying: “On what planet is that likely and how is that not inflammatory language?”

Ms Braverman said the numbers were based on UN estimates of displaced people throughout the world, but Reid said it is a “fact” that only tens of thousands of migrants are coming to the UK on small boats.

Meanwhile on Lineker’s comments, Mr Jenrick told Times Radio: “My children are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and I think those sorts of words should not be thrown around lightly.”

Echoing his sentiments, Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter he does not need “lessons” from Lineker on 1930s Germany as he said he is Jewish and has been hosting Ukrainian refugees.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she does not think it is “right to make comparisons with the 1930s” after the comments, but “people can have their own views”.

BBC director-general Tim Davie previously warned staff over their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020, and guidelines around social media use have since been updated.

Staff were told they need to follow editorial guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way as when doing BBC content.

Mr Davie told the BBC he had not spoken to Lineker, before being asked about how many “strikes” he has had on impartiality and social media.

He said: “I wouldn’t talk specifically about individuals; I don’t think it’s right. I think the BBC absolutely puts the highest value on impartiality and that’s clearly important to us.”

While discussing the story on Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC News culture and media editor Katie Razzall said due to Lineker’s “high profile” the BBC says he has an “additional responsibility”.

Illegal Migration Bill
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has criticised Gary Lineker (Leon Neal/PA)

Former Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis – who was reprimanded by the BBC for sharing a Tweet that the corporation viewed as “controversial” – said she thought it was “curious” the presenter was “free” to ask about Qatar’s human rights record during his World Cup coverage but not about the same issue in the UK.

Lineker, who last year was named as the BBC’s top earning on-air talent for the fifth consecutive year, was paid between £1,350,000 and £1,354,999 in 2021/2022 for Match Of The Day and Sports Personality Of The Year.

He also presented the Qatar World Cup coverage on the BBC in 2022.

The 62-year-old presenter previously said in November 2020 that he hosted refugees through the charity Refugees At Home.

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC has social media guidance, which is published. Individuals who work for us are aware of their responsibilities relating to social media.

“We have appropriate internal processes in place if required.”

Representatives for Lineker have been contacted for comment.