Lee Anderson is ‘pouring fuel on fire of anti-Muslim hatred’, says Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan has accused Lee Anderson of “pouring fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred” after the former Tory deputy chair said Islamists had “got control” of London and its mayor.

The mayor of London said Anderson’s comments were Islamophobic and put across the notion that Muslims were “fair game” when it came to racism.

He also lambasted the prime minister for failing to condemn his own MP’s remarks, saying Rishi Sunak and his the cabinet were now complicit.

Khan’s comments come after Anderson, the MP for Ashfield, said in a Friday night appearance on GB News that the mayor Khan had “given our capital away” to Islamists, referring to the latter as Khan’s “mates”.

Khan responded on Saturday morning, telling Sky News: “These comments from a senior Conservative are Islamophobic, are anti-Muslim and are racist.”

He pointed to a recent surge in hate crimes, adding: “These comments pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred.

“I am afraid the deafening silence form Rishi Sunak and from the cabinet is them condoning this racism.

“I am afraid it confirms to many people across the country that there’s a hierarchy when it comes to racism.

“I am unclear why Rishi Sunak, why members of his cabinet aren’t calling this out and aren’t condemning this.

“It’s like they are complicit in this sort of racism. The message it sends is Muslims are fair game when it comes to racism and anti-Muslim hatred.

“It’s not good enough in 2024 in the United Kingdom.”

Tory and Labour MPs have expressed their disgust at Anderson’s remarks, with the former chancellor Sajid Javid calling them “ridiculous”. The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, said they were “a total disgrace”.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) had earlier called for Anderson to be kicked out of the parliamentary party.

The MCB said the comment was “disgusting” and criticised the “silence of the party in the face of such extremism”.

A spokesperson added: “In a week where we learn of an explosion in Islamophobic hate crimes, influential MPs and a donor to the Conservative party are endorsing common talking points that peddle conspiracy theories and Islamophobic tropes of alleged Muslim takeovers of our country.”

Labour’s chair, Anneliese Dodds, later wrote to her Conservative counterpart, Ric Holden, calling on him to take “serious, concrete action” on Islamophobia in the Tory party.

She said Anderson’s comments were “the tip of iceberg”, and a continuation of a “deeply concerning pattern of Islamophobic comments tolerated and Islamophobia not dealt with”.

She added: “Lee Anderson’s comments were unambiguously Islamophobic and Rishi Sunak’s failure to suspend the whip or take any other action speaks volumes …

“Sunak has a clear choice: show some backbone and withdraw the whip or be forever known as the Tory leader who was too weak to stop the far-right rhetoric in his own party.”

The letter states that, despite a review into Islamophobia in the Tory party in 2021, the party has failed to meaningfully tackle it.

The chorus of condemnation over Anderson continued on Saturday, with the business minister Nus Ghani describing her fellow Tory MP’s comments as “foolish and dangerous”.

In a post on X, she said: “I have spoken to Lee Anderson. I’ve called out Islamic extremism (& been attacked by hard left, far right & Islamists).

“I don’t for one moment believe that Sadiq Khan is controlled by Islamists. To say so, is both foolish and dangerous. Frankly this is all so tiring ….”

The Conservative peer Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s chief of staff in No 10, described the comment as a “despicable slur”.

Neil Garratt, leader of the Conservatives at City Hall, said he had “no shortage of criticisms of Mayor Khan” but added “he is not an Islamist, he is not in the pockets of Islamists, and I completely disagree with anyone who says otherwise”.

The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, called the comments “a total disgrace” and said they “whipped up hate at a time our country needs to come together”. He asked Sunak: “When will you act to remove the Conservative party whip?”

The former Conservative chancellor Sajid Javid was among those who criticised Anderson’s comments, calling it a “ridiculous thing to say”.

Asked on Saturday morning whether Anderson should lose the Tory whip, the defence secretary, Grant Shapps, said the matter was “one for the party itself”. He declined to say whether the MP for Ashfield was a good representative voice for the Tories, saying only that “we live in a democracy where people are allowed to speak their mind and Lee Anderson, I think, is famed for speaking his mind”.

It comes in a week in which former prime minister Liz Truss had used a talk at the Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) in the US to claim her efforts to cut taxes were “sabotaged” by the “administrative state and the deep state”.

The former prime minister later took part in an interview with the former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon and remained silent as he hailed the far-right figure Tommy Robinson a “hero”.

Javid criticised her for not challenging the comment, saying: “I’d hope every MP would confront such a statement head on. Liz should really know better.”

In a letter to Sunak on Friday, the shadow paymaster general, Jonathan Ashworth, said “egregious” remarks made by Truss and Anderson “cannot go unchecked or unchallenged”.

The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed Anderson’s suspension but said the Conservative party has “an Islamophobia problem” and his remarks are “only the tip of an iceberg”.

A Conservative spokesperson said: “An investigation and subsequent independent review, both conducted over several years by Prof Swaran Singh, found no evidence of institutional racism in the Conservative party.”

Speaking before Khan’s comments, a Conservative party source said: “Lee was simply making the point that the mayor, in his capacity as PCC (police and crime commissioner) for London, has abjectly failed to get a grip on the appalling Islamist marches we have seen in London recently.”