Keir Starmer has urged Rishi Sunak to stand up to the Tory MP “snowflakes” who tried to get Gary Lineker “cancelled” by the BBC.
The Labour leader also challenged the PM over his ties to under-fire BBC chairman Richard Sharp, a former Tory donor under investigation over links to Boris Johnson.
Sir Keir urged Mr Sunak at PMQs to “stand up to his snowflake MPs waging war on free speech” as he attacked backbench attempts to “cancel a broadcaster”.
The Labour leader also criticised BBC leadership over the saga which saw Lineker suspended then reinstated without having to apologise for his tweet about Mr Sunak’s small boats plan.
Sir Keir said the corporation’s impartiality was put at risk by the “cancel culture addicts on [Tory] benches, a BBC leadership that caves into their demands and a prime minister too weak to do anything about them”.
Weighing in on the BBC chairman, Mr Starmer said that Mr Sharp was “not just any old Tory donor” saying he was “so close to the prime minister he has been described as his mentor”.
“He helped to arrange an £800,000 credit line for the former prime minister [Mr Johnson], a minor detail he forgot to tell the select committee which scrutinised his appointment,” said the Labour leader.
He added: “Does the prime minister think that his friend’s position is still tenable?”
Appearing to distance himself from the chairman, Mr Sunak said Mr Sharp was appointed “before I became prime minister”.
The PM accused Sir Keir of “opportunism” and insisted the review process looking at Mr Sharp’s appointment was “independent”.
He added: “Instead of pre-judging, and pre-empting that review we should let it conclude and wait for the outcome.”
Sir Keir Starmer has Mr Sharp’s position as “increasingly untenable” over the Lineker row.
Labour and others have suggested he is compromised by the investigation into whether he failed to properly share details of his involvement in an £800,000 loan for Mr Johnson when he was at No 10.
Roger Bolton, an ex-senior executive at the BBC, is among several former top corporation figures to call for Mr Sharp to resign since he could no longer “define impartiality”.
The media expert, who hosts Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast, pointed that Mr Sharp would ultimately decide whether to accept recommended changes to social media guidelines at the end of an independent review.
He added: “The report will be given to the BBC board to decide what further should be done. It is chaired by someone, Richard Sharp, who is not seen as impartial by many people and who has been missing in action over the last crucial days.”
It comes as Lineker clashed with a leading backbench Tory MP who falsely suggested that the BBC presenter had called so-called “red wall” voters in the north and Midlands “Nazis” and “racist bigots”.
Jonathan Gullis told Channel 4 News: “Those are the people I don’t care upsetting, because those are the people who want to call people up here racist bigots, Nazis – like Gary Lineker has done.”
Lineker pointed out that had not done so, calling his comments “outrageous and dangerously provocative”.