No 10 has hit out at Gary Lineker over a tweet in which he appeared to compare the Tory government’s attempted crackdown on small boats to Nazi Germany.
The Match Of The Day host will be given a talking-to by the BBC over the post, which Tory MPs have condemned as “foul, ill-conceived and disgraceful”.
Downing Street said that his language was “not acceptable and disappointing to see” but the matter was one for the BBC.
Rishi Sunak’s press secretary told reporters: “It’s obviously disappointing to see someone whose salary is funded by hard-working British (licence-fee) payers using that kind of rhetoric and seemingly dismissing their legitimate concerns that they have about small boats crossings and illegal migration.”
“But beyond that, it’s up to the BBC, who I think have said today that they’ll be having a conversation with Gary Lineker and it’s not for me to comment further.”
Mr Lineker commented on a Twitter video put out by home secretary Suella Braverman, in which she unveiled government plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel. “Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” the former footballer wrote.
Responding to someone who said he was “out of order”, the presenter responded: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.”
Mr Lineker added: “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?”
Energy secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter: “As a Jewish cabinet minister I need no lessons about 1930s Germany from Gary Lineker.
”Like Gary, I am hosting refugees in my own home, but unlike Gary, I do not believe it is either right or moral to tolerate criminal gangs trafficking vulnerable people across the channel.”
Home secretary Suella Braverman branded the TV presenter’s comments “irresponsible”. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said he was “out of step with the British public” after he called the Government’s proposed measures “cruel”.
But Mr Lineker has said he has never known such “love and support” after the row broke. Following the criticism he wrote on Twitter: “Morning all. Anything going on?”
He then followed this up with another post, adding: “Great to see the freedom of speech champions out in force this morning demanding silence from those with whom they disagree.”
“I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly),” he also wrote. “I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she disagreed with his 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.”
A BBC source told the PA news agency the corporation is taking the matter “seriously” and expects to have a “frank conversation” with the 62-year-old.