Lee Anderson suspended from Tory party after racist Sadiq Khan rant

Lee Anderson has been suspended from the Conservative Party after a racist rant about Sadiq Khan on GB News.

In a stunning fall from grace for Mr Anderson, who until last month was the deputy chairman of the party, he will no longer sit as a Tory MP.

It follows Mr Anderson’s refusal to apologise over a widely criticised interview in which he said “Islamists” have “got control” of Mr Khan.

In an appearance on GB News, Mr Anderson said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

Lee Anderson has had the Tory whip suspended (PA) (PA Wire)
Lee Anderson has had the Tory whip suspended (PA) (PA Wire)

Asked about the comments, Mr Khan said: “These comments from a senior Conservative are Islamophobic, are anti Muslim and are racist.”

And, piling pressure on Rishi Sunak to suspend Mr Anderson, he said: “Racism is racism, I’m unclear why Rishi Sunak and members of his cabinet aren’t calling this out or condemning this.

“It’s like they’re complicit in this sort of racism. And I think the message it sends is, Muslims are fair game.” And Mr Khan pointed to figures showing a spike in anti-Muslim hate incidents in recent months, adding that Mr Anderson’s comments “pour fuel on the fire”.

A spokesperson for Tory chief whip Simon Hart said the decision had been made following the former Tory deputy chairman’s “refusal to apologise” for the remarks made on Friday.

Mr Anderson said in a statement: “Following a call with the chief whip, I understand the difficult position that I have put both he and the prime minister in with regard to my comments. I fully accept that they had no option but to suspend the whip in these circumstances.”

Mr Anderson bizarrely went on to promise he would “continue to support the Government's efforts to call out extremism in all its forms - be that anti-semitism or Islamophobia”.

Labour party chairman Anneliese Dodds said Mr Anderson's comments were “unambiguously Islamophobic, divisive and damaging”.

Responding to his suspendion, she said: “It is right that he has had the whip removed, but the suggestion that Lee Anderson would have retained the confidence of the prime minister, simply if he apologised, is deeply concerning.

“These views are wrong, full stop, and there shouldn’t be conditions on removing them from your party.”

Speculation immediately mounted that Mr Anderson would seek to join Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party.

The insurgent party previously denied claims that it offered money to Mr Anderson to defect to the party, but it is believed he could contest his Ashfield seat, where he has a majority of just under 6,000, at the general election.

It would be a major blow for Mr Sunak if Mr Anderson joined Reform. The party already threatens to scupper Tory hopes in tens of seats at the election, and the outspoken MP, a favourite on the Tory right, could convince even more former Conservative voters to switch parties.

But, asked about the speculation, Reform leader Richard Tice said he was “not interested in pathetic Tory squabbling”.

Pressure had been mounting on the prime minister to take action over the comments from the Ashfield MP (PA)
Pressure had been mounting on the prime minister to take action over the comments from the Ashfield MP (PA)

Pressure had been mounting on the prime minister to take action over the comments from the Ashfield MP, with Mr Khan saying the “deafening silence” of the Mr Sunak and his cabinet amounted to condoning racism.

A Conservative source was defending Mr Anderson as recently as Friday evening before he was stripped of party support on Saturday.

A spokesperson for Mr Hart said: “Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the Chief Whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP.”

The PM is also under pressure to remove the whip from his predecessor Liz Truss, who was interviewed by Steve Bannon and remained silent as he hailed far-right figure Tommy Robinson a “hero”.

Ms Truss was slammed by former chancellor Sajid Javid, who said “I’d hope every MP would confront such a statement head on”. “Liz should really know better,” Sir Sajid added. And Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth accused Ms Truss of an “unforgivable lowering of the office of prime minister”.

On Saturday morning, cabinet minister Grant Shapps appeared to distance himself from the comments by Mr Anderson, but defended the controversial backbencher’s right to “speak (his) mind”.

But left-wing Labour MP Dawn Butler, chairman of the London Parliamentary Labour Party, has written alongside fellow London Labour MPs to the prime minister calling for “immediate action” over Mr Anderson’s comments.

Ms Butler said the comments were “Islamaphobic and hateful” and “fuel the flames” of division in society, calling for Mr Anderson to have the Tory whip removed.

And Labour demanded “serious, concrete action” from the Conservatives to “finally root out Islamophobia” after the comments.

In a letter to Tory Chairman Richard Holden, Ms Dodds said Mr Anderson’s comments are “the tip of iceberg” and follow a “deeply concerning pattern of Islamophobic comments tolerated and Islamophobia not dealt with” within the party.

She cited examples of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party including London mayoral candidate Susan Hall’s claim in October that Jewish people in London are “frightened” of Mr Khan’s “divisive attitude”.

She also cited an investigation into allegations made by Nus Ghani that she was told that her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable” when she was sacked from the Government in 2020.

Ms Dodds had said: “Lee Anderson’s comments were unambiguously Islamophobic and Rishi Sunak’s failure to suspend the whip or take any other action speaks volumes.”

Mr Sunak made Mr Anderson Tory deputy chairman last February in a bid to connect with and hold onto so-called Red Wall voters who helped the party win under Boris Johnson in 2019.

But the Ashfield MP’s repeated controversial remarks often proved awkward for the PM and other ministers forced to defend them.

He resigned as deputy chairman in January as part of a major rebellion against Mr Sunak’s Rwanda deportation bill, believing the legislation did not go far enough to allow Britain to deport asylum seekers to the east African nation.

Business minister Nus Ghani described fellow Tory MP Mr Anderson’s claim that “Islamists” have “got control” of Mr Khan 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...”