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UK: Conservative Party suspends lawmaker over racist remarks

February 24, 2024

UK lawmaker Lee Anderson was suspended from the Conservative party after refusing to apologize for describing London mayor Sadiq Khan as being under the "control" of "Islamists."

Lee Anderson, seen here, was the deputy chair of the Tory party until last month
London mayor Sadiq Khan had criticized the silence from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after Anderson's commentsImage: Yui Mok/empics/picture alliance

The UK's ruling Conservative Party has suspended one of its lawmakers, Lee Anderson, after he refused to apologize for racist comments aimed at London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The Conservative Member of Parliament for Ashfield, Anderson told GB News late Friday night that "Islamists" had "got control" of the mayor of London.

Khan, the first Muslim to be mayor of London and a member of the opposition Labour Party, described the remarks as "pouring fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred."

The action means that Anderson, a deputy chairman of the Conservative party until last month, will sit in Parliament as an independent. Anderson resigned last month to rebel against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's bill to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

Khan criticizes Rishi Sunak for not calling out behavior

Sunak and other senior Conservative leaders had come under increasing pressure to reject the comments, as former Conservative cabinet ministers and the opposition expressed their widespread outrage at the remarks.

The chair of the Labour Party, Anneliese Dodds, said Anderson's comments were "unambiguously racist and Islamophobic." Sadiq Khan said in an interview with Sky News on Saturday that he was not clear why Sunak was neither calling out the behavior nor condemning it. 

"I am afraid the deafening silence from Rishi Sunak and from the cabinet is them condoning this racism," Khan told Sky News before news broke about Lee's suspension.

Controversy comes amid Israel-Hamas war

The controversy comes as the Israel-Hamas war fuels tensions in British society. Pro-Palestinian marches in London have regularly drawn thousands of demonstrators calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Critics have described the events as "antisemitic hate marches" and figures released over the last week show that both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents have sharply risen since the war broke out on October 7, following Hamas' brazen attack against Israeli communities on the day that killed some 1,200 people there.

UK: Hate crimes surge after Hamas attack

The anger has spilled over into the UK Parliament, where some lawmakers say they fear for their safety after receiving threats over their positions on the conflict in Gaza.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many governments, including the UK, Germany, US and others.

rm/ab (Reuters, AP)