Former Tory chancellor George Osborne has backed Gary Lineker in the controversy over his comments about Rishi Sunak’s new immigration plan in a major blow to the prime minister.
George Osborne backed Gary Lineker, criticising the rhetoric around asylum policy by some in his party.
”Personally I think some of the language used on immigration by some Conservatives – not all – is not acceptable,” he told Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show.
“I have a lot of sympathy for Tim Davie, the director-general, who’s trying to maintain impartiality for the BBC in a partisan age. But it’s all ended up in a bit of a mess.”
It comes after Rishi Sunak set out new plans aimed at tackling illegal migration to the UK, which include a near-half-a-billion-pound plan with France to solve the crisis.
The prime minister and Suella Braverman, the home secretary, vowed to “stop the boats” as they unveiled the Illegal Migration Bill this week.
The bill puts a duty on the home secretary to arrange the removal of people who have come to the UK without permission if they have not arrived directly from a country where their liberty is at risk.
Football commentator Gary Lineker has been embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.
On Tuesday, Lineker wrote on Twitter about a video in which home secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats and said the UK is being “overwhelmed”.
“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” Lineker wrote in response to the video.
Replying to the sports broadcaster, another Twitter user described his comment as “out of order”, adding that it was “easy to pontificate when it doesn’t affect you”.
Lineker responded: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“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?”
The comparison saw Lineker suspended from the helm of Match of the Day, which he has presented for almost a quarter of a century – prompting several fellow pundits, including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, and Alex Scott, to announce they would not be taking part in solidarity with the former England striker, meaning Match of the Day 2 coverage will last for only 14 minutes tonight as the row is cleared up.
The Women’s Super League Chelsea v Manchester United game on BBC Two kicked off with no pre-match presentation and no pundits tonight.
BBC Radio 5 Live’s football phone-in programme 606 will also not air again tonight, according to Sky News.
The prime minister made attempts to distance himself from the dispute saying that he hoped it could be “resolved in a timely manner” but it was “a matter for them”.
He added that his plan to deport all illegal migrants was the “moral” and “fair choice”. Mr Sunak said Lineker was a “great” player and presenter but added: “I have to do what I believe is right.”
Celebrities have thrown their support behind Mr Lineker, including former BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis, who was herself reprimanded by the BBC for sharing a tweet the corporation viewed as “controversial”.
Ms Maitlis said her former employer could face a “much, much bigger battle” after its decision.
TV host Carol Vorderman, Richard Osman and former Blue Peter presenter Simon Thomas have also supported Mr Lineker.