Gary Lineker hits back at Penny Mordaunt ‘leftwing striker’ jab as row rages over his asylum policy tweet

Gary Lineker has said he stands by his comments regarding the Government’s Channel boats policy and does not fear being suspended by the BBC.

Lineker, 62, faced criticism after he commented on a video put out by the Home Secretary, in which she unveiled Government plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel which he labelled as “beyond awful”.

In response to a separate tweet regarding migrant numbers, Lineker then said: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker outside his home in London on Thursday (PA)
Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker outside his home in London on Thursday (PA)

“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.”

Speaking outside his London home on Thursday, Lineker defended his comments and said he did not fear any repercussions from the BBC.

He later tweeted: “Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days.

“Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday. Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.”

He also hit out at Penny Mordaunt after the Leader of the House of Commons said “Labour are a party of goalhangers” as she claimed the Opposition was borrowing from the Match of the Day presenter’s “playbook”.

In response Lineker said: “Thank you for mentioning me in your clumsy analogy. I’m just happy to have been better in the 6 yard box than you are at the dispatch box. Best wishes.”

Earlier on Thursday, Richard Ayre, the BBC’s former controller of editorial policy, said the director general may have to dismiss the Match of the Day presenter.

Asked whether director general Tim Davie may have to "let him go", Mr Ayre told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "I don’t think he is going to have any choice but to let him go unless he can be certain that this is the end of it."

In contrast, however, Richard Sambrook, former director of BBC News said it was “unsustainable” for the broadcaster to force “freelance presenters to fall in line with BBC policies”.

In a thread on Twitter, he said: “It’s daft that a sports presenter’s tweet has led BBC News all day rather than the real issues, though I defend an editor’s right to decide .

“I think it’s become unsustainable for the BBC to force freelance presenters to fall in line with BBC policies in their non-BBC activities in the current environment.

“The BBC needs to review and clarify its contractual relationship with freelance staff - and clarify to what extent impartiality rules extend beyond news.

“Both are currently full of fudge and continuing to fudge around these issues allows critics from both political sides to attack the BBC - particularly as ‘culture wars’ are shaping up to increase in run up to the election.”

Following the backlash against the Match of the Day presenter, the BBC said it would remind Lineker “of his responsibilities” with a source adding that it was taking the matter “seriously” and expects to have a “frank conversation” with the former England striker.

Under the BBC’s editorial guidelines, the broadcaster states that it sets out “to achieve due impartiality in all its output”.

After becoming chairman of the BBC, Tim Davie unveiled a 10-point impartiality plan to raise standards and eliminate claims of bias.

A BBC spokesperson 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.”