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Mordaunt says Anderson article ‘closest we will get to one-word apology’

Penny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt was asked to agree that Lee Anderson had used racist and Islamophobic language in his remarks about Sadiq Khan - Leon Neal/Getty Images

Penny Mordaunt appeared to accept that an article written by Lee Anderson was an apology as she urged the former deputy party chairman to stick with the Conservatives.

The Commons Leader said the 1,000-word piece, written for The Express, was “the closest we will get to a one-word apology”.

Ms Mordaunt appealed to the Ashfield MP, who was suspended from the Tory party for suggesting that Sadiq Khan, the Labour London Mayor, was controlled by “Islamists”, to “consider all the good” he could do with his position.

Mr Anderson has refused to rule out joining Reform UK, the Brexit Party successor founded by Nigel Farage.

It came after Lucy Powell, the shadow Commons leader, had called on Ms Mordaunt to agree that Mr Anderson had used racist and Islamophobic language in his remarks about Mr Khan.

In his piece 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.”

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.”

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

Ms Mordaunt also pointed to Labour MPs’ past record of poor language, asking: “Which party’s actions have made it likely that an anti-Semite 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 Commons Leader also compared the threats currently facing MPs with past threats from the IRA, and said Parliament would not be cowed.

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 Jo Cox, a Labour MP, and Sir David Amess, a Conservative, who were both killed in office since 2016, the walls of the chamber feature memorials to Ian Gow, the Conservative MP killed by an IRA car bomb in 1990, and Airey Neave, the Tory shadow Northern Ireland secretary 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.”