The Labour leadership has defended BBC presenter Gary Lineker after he compared Rishi Sunak’s planned crackdown on migrants arriving by small boats to Nazi Germany.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she disagreed with the Match of the Day host’s comments – but said he was entitled to speak out.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if Mr Lineker was “wrong” to compare the measures to those used in Nazi Germany Ms Cooper said: “I don’t agree with that.”
Pressed to say if the corporation should take “significant action” against him, she said: “That is entirely a matter for the BBC. He is somebody who has spoken out strongly on lots of different issues. People who feel strongly should be able to speak out and say the things that they feel.”
Ms Cooper’s remarks came after Tory MPs shared their outrage and called for Mr Lineker to be fired over his controversial comments on social media.
Repsonding to a video by home secretary Suella Braverman, Mr Lineker tweeted: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”
Asked about Mr Lineker’s comments, Ms Braverman told BBC Radio: “I am disappointed he should attempt to equate our policies with 1930s Germany. I don’t think that is an appropriate way to frame the debate.”
Robert Jenrick, the Tory immigration minister, told Times Radio that Mr Lineker is “so far out of step” with what the public want to be done regarding small boat crossings.
Craig Mackinlay, Tory MP for South Thanet, said Mr Lineker should be sacked, claiming his Nazi Germany comparison was “foul, ill-conceived and disgraceful”.
Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory MP for Bassetlaw, said it was “grossly offensive”, while deputy Tory chair Lee Anderson added: “Instead of lecturing, Mr Lineker should stick to reading out the football scores and flogging crisps.”
A spokesperson for the BBC said: “Individuals who work for us are aware of their responsibilities relating to social media. We would expect Gary to be spoken to and reminded of his responsibilities.”
The row comes as Ms Braverman was unable to say when new detention centres for migrants who arrive on small boats will be built, when the first removals would happen – or what the cost of the crackdown will be.
The home secretary provided few details when grilled on the Sunak government plan to ban people from claiming asylum and “swiftly remove” them to their home country or a safe “third country”.
Asked when the government would new facilities needed to hold thousands of detainees, Ms Braverman told Sky News “we are rolling out new detention spaces” but “I’m not going to give precise dates”.
She added: “We’ve got logistical challenges that we’re always overcoming. But very, very soon we will be expanding our detention capacity to meet the need.”
Questioned on when the first removals would begin, the Tory cabinet minister said: “I can’t give you precise dates, we have lots of processes which are in train.”
Mr Sunak suggested that the first deportations to Rwanda could begin this summer. “The Court of Appeal is due to hear the case towards the end of April and we’d get a decision relatively soon after that,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
The home secretary insisted the bill does not break the law – despite admitting telling Tory MPs in a letter that there is a more than 50 per cent chance the legislation may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Ms Braverman said the government was “pushing the boundaries” and “testing innovative and novel legal arguments” with its small boats plan.
“I believe that our measures are compatible with the international legal obligations to which we are subject,” she told BBC Breakfast.
But “out of an abundance of caution”, Ms Braverman said she had issued the statement telling MPs she was not able to confirm that the bill was compatible with the ECHR.
She said the measures taken against unsanctioned arrivals would be “compassionate”, but added: “They are breaking our laws, they are abusing the generosity of the British people and we now need to ensure that they are deterred from doing that.”
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said the Sunak government plan to deport asylum seekers without consideing their claims amounted to a “clear breach” of international law.
Aside from the legality of the plan, senior Tory David Davis and others have pointed out the “real practical difficulties” in locking up thousands of people without any returns agreements outside of an agreement with Albania and the processing deal with Rwanda.
The Home Office is reportedly ready to buy former military bases in Lincolnshire and Essex to detain thousands of migrants. But senior Tory Sir Edward Leigh has expressed concerns that RAF Scampton – home of 617 Squadron, known as the Dambusters – could become a permanent detention site.
In addition to attempting to stop Channel migrants, many commentators have suggested the government’s new policy is designed to open a political divide with Labour on the issue before the next election.
Ms Cooper said the government’s new initiative would not work. She said a future Labour administration would take more effective action against people smugglers and clear the backlog of asylum cases.