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Lee Anderson suspended as Conservative MP after refusal to apologise for Sadiq Khan ‘Islamists’ claim

Lee Anderson has been suspended as a Conservative Party MP after claiming that London mayor Sadiq Khan is controlled by “Islamists”.

The decision came after the ex-Tory deputy chairman refused to apologise for his controversial remarks.

Pressure had been mounting on Rishi Sunak to take action over the comments from the Ashfield MP.

Mr Khan said the “deafening silence” of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet on the matter amounted to condoning racism.

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

It comes after Mr Khan accused Mr Anderson of “pouring fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred” after he said Islamists had “got control” of him.

He said the comments were Islamophobic and send the message that Muslims are “fair game” when it comes to racism.

On GB News, Anderson said of Mr Khan, the first Muslim to hold his role: “He's given our capital city away to his mates. 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.”

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

Responding to the claim on Saturday, Mr Khan told broadcasters: “These comments from a senior Conservative are Islamophobic, are anti-Muslim and are racist.

“We’ve seen over the last two days confirmation that over the last few months there had been an increase in anti-Muslim cases by more than 330 per cent.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

“I’m afraid the deafening silence from Rishi Sunak and from the Cabinet is them condoning this racism.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps distanced himself from the comments on Saturday’s broadcast media round, but stopped short of criticising them.

He suggested that the MP for Ashfield had a right to “speak (his) mind” as he was pressed on whether the remarks were acceptable.

But other senior Conservatives hit out at the claim, with business minister Nus Ghani branding it “foolish and dangerous”.

Former chancellor Sajid Javid described the remark as “ridiculous” while Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s Number 10 chief of staff, said it was a “despicable slur”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Saturday, Mr Shapps said he had not seen the comments first-hand but added: “It’s certainly not the way I would put things.

“I think there are more concerns about the way that some of these (pro-Palestinian) protests have been taking place, in particular what we saw projected on to Parliament this week, but I certainly wouldn’t phrase things like that.”

The senior Cabinet minister was criticised by Labour’s Anneliese Dodds, who accused him of being unable to call out his fellow Tory MP’s “racist and Islamophobic comments”.

Ms Ghani later posted on X: “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.”

Asked whether Mr Anderson should lose the Tory whip, Mr Shapps said the matter was “one for party itself”.

The Defence Secretary declined to say whether the MP for Ashfield is a good representative voice for the party, 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”.

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

A spokesperson said: “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.”

Ashfield Independent council leader Jason Zadrozny said the town “deserves better” and “Lee Anderson is an embarrassment”.

Labour called on Mr Sunak to “show some leadership” and discipline the MP, with shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth writing a letter to the PM demanding the whip be withdrawn.

Mr Anderson, a standard bearer for the Tory right, will now sit as an Independent unless he defects to another party that chooses to offer him its backing.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice previously suggested he has been in touch with senior Conservative MPs who were “absolutely furious” about the Government’s handling of immigration.

Mr Anderson was deputy chairman of the Tory Party until resigning in January to rebel against Mr Sunak’s legislation to revive the stalled plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He joined 58 other Conservatives to vote in favour of an amendment that sought to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to prevent or delay a person being sent to Kigali under the scheme.

Mr Anderson has served since 2019 as MP for Ashfield, one of the previously Labour seats in the so-called red wall where voters switched to the Tories post-Brexit to give Boris Johnson his landslide victory.

He has not yet publicly commented on the backlash to his remarks or his suspension.