Sadiq Khan accuses Lee Anderson of ‘fuelling hate’ amid secret recording

Lee Anderson is heard saying Sadiq Khan ‘hates this country’ in a secret recording

Zoe Grunewald
Wednesday 01 May 2024 19:51 BST
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Sadiq Khan has accused former deputy Conservative chairman turned Reform UK MP Lee Anderson of “fuelling hate crime and violent threats” following “unpatriotic” comments made by Mr Anderson about the London mayor.

In a secret recording obtained by ITV News, the Reform MP is heard telling participants at a party event that Tory cabinet ministers were among those who messaged him their support after he was suspended, telling him "Rishi has thrown you under the bus".

He is also heard claiming Mr Khan "hates this country... our heritage, our culture".

Mr Khan has hit back at Mr Anderson and his former party, calling it “deeply depressing" to hear that the former deputy chairman’s "Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred was cheered on by current Tory party staff, MPs and Cabinet ministers" and that the Reform MP’s comments have “real-world consequences”.

In a statement, Mr Khan said: “In the past 24hours we have seen my Tory mayoral opponent endorsing Facebook groups rife with antisemitism, Islamophobia and death threats against me. And now we have a former Tory party Deputy chair caught on camera being racist.

Lee Anderson defected to the right-wing challenger party Reform UK following his suspension
Lee Anderson defected to the right-wing challenger party Reform UK following his suspension (PA Wire)

“It is deeply depressing that he confirms his Islamophobia and anti Muslim hatred was cheered on by current Tory party staff, MPs and Cabinet ministers.”

He added: “It’s unpatriotic to talk down modern, diverse, brilliant Britain in this way. And it has real-world consequences, fuelling hate crime and violent threats.”

Residents in London will take to the polls this week to elect the city’s new mayor. It is widely expected that Mr Khan will keep the seat - fighting off the controversial Conservative candidate Susan Hall.

Mr Khan added: “The London mayoral election tomorrow will be close between Labour and the Tories. The choice is between Labour who are building a fairer, green, safer London for everyone - or the Tory candidate who wants to divide our communities and take London backwards.”

Rishi Sunak removed the Conservative whip from Mr Anderson following comments from the former deputy party chairman who claimed that he Muslim mayor was under the control of “Islamists” and had “given our capital city away to his mates".

Mr Anderson admitted his remarks were a "little bit clumsy" but refused to apologise, leading to him losing the whip and defecting to become the first sitting MP for Richard Tice’s Reform party.

ITV’s recording appears to show Mr Anderson doubling down his attacks on Mr Khan and refusing to acknowledge them as racist.

"I never mentioned Sadiq Khan’s race, the colour of his skin, anything like that," he is heard saying.

Mr Anderson is also heard claiming that CCHQ workers messaged him to say “well done Lee", and “you’re saying what millions of people are thinking up and down the country".

Rishi Sunak suspended Lee Anderson from the Conservative party following ‘islamophobic’ comments about the mayor of London
Rishi Sunak suspended Lee Anderson from the Conservative party following ‘islamophobic’ comments about the mayor of London (PA Media)

While Mr Anderson has spoken of support from Tory MPs before, he has not mentioned receiving messages from members of Mr Sunak’s top ministerial team.

According to ITV, Mr Anderson would not confirm who texted him their support but said "there were a few, more than one" - among them, "at least two Cabinet ministers contacted me to say I’d been treated poorly".

"I would never betray the confidence of my colleagues, regardless of what political party they’re in, that was sent in confidence," he said, adding that "a lot of those people who I sit opposite are still my friends."

Mr Anderson went on to say he "believes" some in the prime minister’s top table told Mr Sunak directly that he’d been "thrown under the bus", adding: "I’m fairly confident that privately they were bending the prime minister’s ears."

According to ITV, a Conservative party spokesman did not deny the claims but said: "A vote for Reform is a vote for Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party, taking us right back to square one.

"Only the Conservative Party is sticking to the plan and delivering on the people’s priorities."

Mr Anderson has been approached for comment.

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