Sadiq Khan says Rishi Sunak ‘complicit’ as PM remains silent on Lee Anderson’s ‘racist’ GB News rant

Rishi Sunak is “complicit” in the ant-Muslim hatred spread on GB News by Lee Anderson, Sadiq Khan has said.

The prime minister and his cabinet have failed to “call out and condemn” the comments by Mr Anderson, the London mayor told Sky News.

He said: “Racism is racism, I’m unclear why Rishi Sunak and members of his cabinet aren’t calling this out or condemning this.

Sadiq Khan said Rishi Sunak is ‘complicit’ in Mr Anderson’s racism for failing to call out the ex-Tory deputy chairman’s remarks (PA)
Sadiq Khan said Rishi Sunak is ‘complicit’ in Mr Anderson’s racism for failing to call out the ex-Tory deputy chairman’s remarks (PA)

“It’s like they’re complicit in this sort of racism. And I think the message it sends is, Muslims are fair game.”

It came after Mr Anderson, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said “Islamists” have “got control” of Mr Khan.

In an appearance on GB News, Mr Anderson had 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.”

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

“We've seen, over the last two days, confirmation that there's been an increase in anti-Muslim cases by more than 330 per cent.

Lee Anderson made the controversial rant during an appearance on GB News (Getty Images)
Lee Anderson made the controversial rant during an appearance on GB News (Getty Images)

“These comments pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred, and I'm afraid the deafening silence from Rishi Sunak and from the cabinet is them condoning this racism.

“It confirms so many people across the country that there's a hierarchy when it comes to racism.”

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, Labour chairman Anneliese 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 said: “Lee Anderson’s comments were unambiguously Islamophobic and Rishi Sunak’s failure to suspend the whip or take any other action speaks volumes.

“But Anderson’s comments are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. We have seen numerous examples of ignorant and offensive views tolerated and a failure of the party to adopt a definition or even use the term Islamophobia.

“Sunak has a clear choice: show some backbone and withdraw the whip or be forever known the Tory leader who was too weak to stop the far right rhetoric in his own party.”

The row erupted after That came as Ms Truss used a talk at the Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) in the US to claim her efforts to cut taxes were "sabotaged" by the "administrative state and the deep state".

The former prime minister, whose disastrous mini-budget in 2022 unleashed economic chaos, later took part in an interview with Mr Bannon, declining to challenge his characterisation of far-right agitator Mr Robinson as a "hero”.

Sir Sajid was among those criticising her for not challenging the remark.

Ms Truss claimed in her speech that Conservatives are “now operating in what is a hostile environment” and that “left-wing elites” will be “aided and abetted by our enemies in China, Iran and Russia”.

Interviewed by Mr Bannon after her speech, she also said she was willing to work with Nigel Farage to change the Conservative Party.

And she suggested the former Donald Trump adviser, who is facing fraud charges in New York, could “come over to Britain and sort out Britain”.

In a letter to Mr Sunak, Mr Ashworth wrote: “For a senior politician to engage in spreading such blatant conspiracy theories is incredibly damaging to our democracy, our institutions and social cohesion.”

He added: “For a former prime minister to make such remarks, while on an international visit to a country with whom the UK shares a special relationship which upholds liberal values is an unforgivable lowering of the office of prime minister which lessens the United Kingdom’s standing in the world and needs to be acted upon.

“It’s time to show some leadership and take on the extremists in your party. Liz Truss and Lee Anderson must no longer sit as Conservative MPs. Their words cannot go unchecked or unchallenged.”

The Independent has approached No10 for comment.

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