Paul Scully 'regrets' storm after claiming parts of Tower Hamlets and Birmingham are 'no-go areas'

Conservative former London minister Paul Scully said on Tuesday he regrets sparking controversy for claiming that parts of Tower Hamlets and Birmingham have become “no-go areas”.

"My concern is about perceptions of such areas which fuel the type of divisive rhetoric we've heard,” the MP for Sutton and Cheam and former London mayoral candidate told the Evening Standard, after fellow MP Lee Anderson had the Conservative whip withdrawn for an incendiary attack on Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“If I've spoken in a way that has been misconstrued then that's something I regret,” Mr Scully said.

He stressed his long track record in community relations, and added: “Although we need moderate voices at this time, frankly my biggest regret is speaking out in the first place."

He made his contentious remarks while condemning Mr Anderson for claiming that Mr Khan was under the control of Islamist extremists, following months of protests against the Gaza war.

"The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, there are no-go areas,” Mr Scully told BBC London radio on Monday.

"Parts of Birmingham, Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying.

"That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed."

Both Tower Hamlets and Sparkhill have large Muslim populations.

The remarks were condemned by Labour MPs Apsana Begum and Rushanara Ali, whose constituencies cover Tower Hamlets, along with Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips and Andy Street, the Conservative mayor for the West Midlands.

Ms Begum said the East London Mosque had received bomb threats and the Far right was targeting the area “more and more”. But she tweeted: “In #TowerHamlets, we are diverse, multicultural, multiracial, people of all faiths and none, and from all around the word - and we will continue (to) stand together against intolerance, division and hate.”

Legal Migration Minister Tom Pursglove said Mr Scully should retract his claims about “no-go areas”. He told Sky News on Tuesday morning: “I think it would be best, again, if that comment was withdrawn.

“I don’t recognise that as being the situation in London or Birmingham, but we as politicians must always be forward leaning and on the front foot when it comes to integrating people into our communities and making sure that people are able to play a full contribution in UK society.”

Mr Scully’s assessment was also disavowed by 10 Downing Street, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying that Rishi Sunak did not agree with it.

“No, and the PM has talked before about the value of the very diverse communities and societies that we have in the UK,” he said on Monday.

The Prime Minister condemned Mr Anderson’s racially charged words against the London Mayor as “wrong” - but refused to call them Islamophobic, which the Government says is a problematic term.

Illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson was pressed repeatedly by LBC presenter Nick Ferrari on Tuesday morning to explain what exactly was wrong in what Mr Anderson had said, if it did not count as Islamophobic.

Mr Tomlinson was unable to say, stressing only: “It was wrong.” Mr Ferrari stopped the interview and concluded: “Michael Tomlinson is a minister of state for illegal migration, unable to answer a question.”