Lee Anderson stands by attack on Sadiq Khan and launches fresh broadside

<span>Lee Anderson said his remarks had been ‘born out of sheer frustration’ at what was happening in London.</span><span>Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA</span>
Lee Anderson said his remarks had been ‘born out of sheer frustration’ at what was happening in London.Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Lee Anderson has stood by the comments that lost him the Tory whip and launched a fresh attack on Sadiq Khan, as a body for Muslim Conservative members said it was seeking an urgent meeting with government figures.

The MP admitted that his words last week had been clumsy, but said in a statement via GB News, where he presents a weekly show, that they were “born out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city”.

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“If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength,” he said in the statement released on Monday. “But, when you think you are right, you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness.”

Anderson, who was the Conservative party’s deputy chair until last month, was suspended on Saturday for refusing to apologise for saying Islamists had “got control” of the London mayor.

Rishi Sunak refused to describe Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic when pressed during interviews on a visit to East Yorkshire, continuing to say they were wrong rather than prejudiced.

“I’ve been very clear that what he said was wrong, it was unacceptable, and that’s why we suspended the whip,” the prime minister said. “It’s important that everybody, but particularly elected politicians, are careful with their words and do not inflame tensions.”

Related: Sunak says no Islamophobia issues in Tory party despite Anderson remarks

Sunak also declined to criticise the former home secretary Suella Braverman, who wrote in a Telegraph article that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now”. He said: “I think that those comments were not about an individual in particular.”

As pressure continues to build on Sunak, the Conservative Muslim Forum said it was urgently seeking a meeting with senior government figures this week and was in talks with advisers to set one up.

Naveed Asghar, the deputy chair of the Conservatives’ affiliated body for Muslim members, said: “Is the party racist or Islamophobic? I would say no, from my heart. Individuals? Yes.

“Are these people pandering to the vote base in their seats? I can’t see what’s going on. If he is doubling down on the comments, then the party should absolutely be having a word with him. I was hoping that the suspension would be enough.

“Any inflammatory remarks are just not acceptable, whether it’s people on the left making antisemitic comments or people on the right making anti-Muslim comments.”

Anderson admitted in his statement that some people had found his comments divisive.

“Politics is divisive and I am just incredibly frustrated about the abject failures of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan,” he said.

In a fresh attack on Khan, the now-independent MP said: “Hundreds of people had been arrested for racist abuse on these marches and we barely hear a peep from the mayor.

“If these marches were about something less fashionable, Sadiq Khan would have been the first to call for them to be cancelled. It’s double standards for political benefit.”

Related: Lee Anderson: from Labour councillor to Labour wind-up merchant

Gavin Barwell, a peer and former chief of staff to Theresa May, said Anderson should not be allowed back in to the parliamentary party until he made a genuine apology.

“In terms of what happens next. I think if you were going to let anyone back in, you’d want to be convinced that an apology was genuine,” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear that the language that was used, was used with the intent of stirring up religious hatred and division.”

Downing Street said the government did not tolerate “anti-Muslim hatred in any form”, after Sunak’s spokesperson was challenged over his refusal to refer specifically to Islamophobia while condemning prejudice more generally.

Khan and his Conservative challenger in the London mayoral elections, Susan Hall, presented a united front on Monday when they both called for zero tolerance of racism in the contest.

“We are facing some very difficult times, with the politics of extremism, division and blame becoming more mainstream,” Khan wrote in an article published by the Standard.

Also writing in the Standard, Hall said: “I may be one of Sadiq Khan’s biggest critics, but I also see the monstrous abuse he gets as one of the country’s most prominent Muslim politicians,.”