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Lee Anderson newspaper explanation ‘closest we will get to apology’ – Mordaunt

Critics of MP Lee Anderson might have to accept an article he penned for the Express newspaper is “the closest we will get to a one-word apology”, Penny Mordaunt has said.

The Commons leader also appealed to the Ashfield MP, who was suspended from the Conservative Party for suggesting Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan was controlled by Islamists, to “consider all the good” he could do with his position, even if he defects to another political party.

Mr Anderson has refused to rule out joining Reform, an emerging political party on the right founded as the Brexit Party by Nigel Farage.

Shadow Commons Leader Lucy Powell had called on her opposite number to agree that Mr Anderson had used racist and Islamophobic language in his remarks about Mr Khan.

Ms Mordaunt told the Commons: “I know that she will want to hear one word from the Honourable Member for Ashfield, but yesterday he did provide us with 1,000.

“I read his piece in the Express and it is some distance from the view that he expressed in that interview, and I think that what he wrote in the Express is his genuine view.

“Those thousand words, we might have to accept, are the closest we will get to a one-word apology that others seek.

“She has understandably chosen to scold him. I would rather ask him whatever political hue he ends up being to consider all the good he could do in these particular times with the trust and following that he built up.”

Writing in the Express, Mr Anderson insisted he was not racist, saying: “The point I was trying to make last week was that the Mayor of London has lost control of our capital city as the extremists who hide under the Islam banner take over our streets in their attempt to change the course of our democracy.

“These extremists are often labelled as Islamists which, on reflection, is totally unfair on Muslims in general and we must make sure that our language reflects this.”

Labour Party Conference 2021
Labour’s Lucy Powell said MPs had to be ‘mindful’ of their language (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Labour frontbencher Ms Powell said it was “incumbent upon all of us to be mindful about our own language and conduct”, adding: “When we see racism, antisemitism, or Islamophobia in our own ranks we must take action, however difficult the consequences, and we must be clear in calling it out.”

Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt also retorted by pointing to Labour MPs’ past record of poor language, and asked: “Which party’s actions have made it likely that an antisemite will be sworn into this House next week? Which party last week trashed the understanding and foundation of trust upon which this place needs to operate?”

The Leader also compared threats currently facing MPs with past actions by the IRA, and said Parliament would not be cowed by it.

She said: “What we are experiencing is a new form of an old story, and as well as those colleagues who were slain since 2016, there are others who were murdered whose shields are on the walls of this chamber above the door.”

Alongside shields to remember Labour’s Jo Cox, and Conservative Sir David Amess, both killed in office since 2016, the walls of the Commons chamber are adorned with memorials to Conservative MP Ian Gow, who was killed by an IRA car bomb in 1990, and Tory shadow Northern Ireland secretary Airey Neave, who died in a car bomb attack in Westminster in 1979.

Ms Mordaunt added: “There are members who still sit on these benches who can remember being issued with mirrors to look under their cars in the morning, and we are facing a new form of that old threat.

“It failed then and it is going to fail now, but while we focus on ending that threat, we must not lose sight of the good in our country, and what we can all do to help this situation.”