UK Conservatives suspend lawmaker who said Islamists control London’s mayor

By Thomson Reuters Feb 24, 2024 | 10:54 AM

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Conservative Party suspended one of its lawmakers, Lee Anderson, on Saturday after he said the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was under the control of Islamists.

Khan, the first Muslim to be mayor of London and a member of the opposition Labour Party, is a frequent target of Conservative criticism for his handling of policing in Britain’s capital, including regular pro-Palestinian marches.

On Wednesday hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside parliament, during a chaotic vote over whether to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and the exact language to use.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Lindsay Hoyle, said he broke with usual parliamentary procedure for the vote because of previous threats of violence some lawmakers had received due to their views on the conflict.

Speaking on Friday to the television channel GB News, Anderson said: “I don’t actually believe these 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 to his mates.”

Khan – who regularly speaks of the importance of fighting antisemitism, misogyny and homophobia – told reporters that he regarded Anderson’s comments as racist and Islamophobic and that they would “pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.

Amid growing criticism of Anderson’s remarks on Saturday, the Conservative Party said it had decided he could no longer represent them in parliament.

“Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the Chief Whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP,” a spokesperson for Simon Hart, the government minister in charge of party discipline, said.

Anderson, a former Conservative Party vice chairman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A survey conducted from Feb. 16-18 by Savanta showed that 29% of Britons believed the Conservatives had a problem with Islamophobia, the most of any major political party.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Louise Heavens)