UK

Shapps distances himself from Anderson’s ‘Islamist’ claim over Khan

But the Defence Secretary appeared to say that the Tory former deputy chairman had a right to speak his mind.

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps Grant Shapps (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

The Defence Secretary has distanced himself from Lee Anderson’s claim that “Islamists” have “got control” of Sadiq Khan while a fellow minister described the remarks as “foolish and dangerous.”

Grant Shapps stopped short of criticising the remarks made by the Tory former deputy chairman, arguing that he had a right to “speak (his) mind” as he was pressed on whether the remarks were acceptable.

But other senior figures within the Tory ranks have condemned the claim, with business minister Nus Ghani intervening on Saturday to publicly brand it “foolish and dangerous”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing calls from Labour for Mr Anderson to lose the whip after he said the London mayor had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, 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 drew criticism from 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.”

Rishi Sunak with Lee Anderson
Rishi Sunak with Lee Anderson Rishi Sunak with Lee Anderson (Jacob King/PA)

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 Conservative 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”.

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.”

The remarks prompted criticism from Labour and some Conservatives, with senior Tory MP Sir Sajid Javid describing them as “ridiculous”.

Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan (Victoria Jones/PA)

Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s Number 10 chief of staff, said the remark was a “despicable slur”.

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”.

A Conservative Party source said: “Lee was simply making the point that the mayor, in his capacity as PCC (police and crime commissioner) for London, has abjectly failed to get a grip on the appalling Islamist marches we have seen in London recently.”