Lee Anderson Did Not Intend To Be Islamophobic, Says Oliver Dowden

The former Tory deputy chairman lost the party whip after failing to apologise for his attack on Sadiq Khan.

Lee Anderson was not “intending” to be Islamophobic when he claimed that “Islamists” have “got control of” Sadiq Khan, according to Oliver Dowden.

The deputy prime minister also revealed that Anderson would not have been stripped of the Tory whip if he had apologised.

Anderson, former Tory deputy chairman was suspended from the Conservative Party yesterday after he failed to say sorry for his comments.

Anderson also said the Labour mayor of London had “given our capital city away to his mates” in an interview on GB News.

His comments - a reference to the pro-Palestine marches which have taken place in London in recent months - provoked a furious backlash, including from senior Tories.

Appearing on the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday programme, Dowden said Rishi Sunak had been right to remove the Tory whip after Anderson failed to say sorry.

But the deputy prime minister then appeared to defend the Ashfield MP by suggesting he had simply mis-spoken.

He said: “Words matter, he didn’t choose his words correctly, and having failed to apologise the prime minister took action and removed the whip. I think that was the appropriate course of action to take.”

Kuenssberg asked him: “Do you agree, though, that the remarks were Islamophobic, anti-Muslim?”

Downden replied: “I don’t believe that Lee Anderson said those remarks intending to be Islamophobic.”

He added: “What Lee Anderson was more broadly expressing is a deep concern, which I also share, about the way in which politics has been conducted and what has happened over the past week.”

Asked again whether the comments were Islamophobic, Dowden refused to give a straight answer.

He said: “The chance that it could be taken in that way is the reason why those comments led to the chief whip asking for an apology.

“I share those concerns about how they could be taken in that way, which is why it was right that he should be asked for an apology, and when he failed to give that apology, the whip was removed.”

Asked whether he would have kept the whip if he had apologised, Dowden said: “Yes. He was asked to apologise, he failed to do so and that’s what flowed from it.”


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