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Kay Burley Puts Minister In Hot Seat Over Lee Anderson Remarks

Kay Burley Puts Minister In Hot Seat Over Lee Anderson Remarks

Sky News’ Kay Burley cornered the transport secretary over Lee Anderson’s attack on Sadiq Khan, which led to his suspension from the Conservative Party.

Mark Harper repeatedly refused to describe his former Tory colleague’s remarks as “racist”, and would only go as far as calling the comments “wrong” in a tense interview on Monday.

Anderson triggered a major backlash after he said Khan, the London mayor who is also Muslim, had “given out capital city away to his mates”.

The former Tory deputy chairman claimed “Islamists” have “got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London”.

Anderson then refused to apologise for the remarks, at which point he was kicked out of the Conservative Party.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, Harper said he hopes Anderson will reflect, retract his comments and apologise.

He claimed Khan had a “terrible” record “on everything, frankly”.

“We don’t have to make anything up about Sadiq Khan. His record is terrible,” he added.

But, pressing Harper about Anderson’s words, Burley said: “You say it was wrong, was it racist?”

“Well, it was wrong. I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of what he said – in my book, wrong is a strong word,” Harper said.

The Sky News host pushed: “Well, it’s a different word to racist.”

Harper just repeated: “Sadiq Khan has a terrible track record as mayor of London.”

Burley cut in: “That’s not my question, Mr Harper, you’ve already dealt with that matter. My question was, was it racist what he said?”

“I’m not going to get into a detailed analysis of what he said,” Harper said, saying once again he thinks Anderson’s comments are “wrong”.

“Lots of people are wrong, I’m wrong on a daily basis – I’m not a racist,” Burley said.

“No, but what he said about Sadiq Khan was profoundly wrong, those things were not true and what he said was wrong,” Harper said again.

When the transport secretary started to talk about Khan’s record as London mayor, Burley cut in again: “You’ve told me that already Mr Harper, I’ve allowed you to say that three times now.

“He was previously deputy chairman, Lee Anderson, given what he said, was he the wrong person to be deputy chairman in the first place?”

Harper dodged the question, saying: “He said what he said as a backbencher.”

Harper faced a similar challenge on BBC Breakfast, when host Jon Kay asked: “Was Lee Anderson’s comment, was that racist?”

Harper said, once again, it was “not correct” and it was “wrong” for Anderson to make the comments.

Kay asked if it would be possible for Anderson to re-enter the Conservative Party if he apologised, but Harper refused to be drawn on that point.

Kay then questioned what message this sent to the Muslim community in the UK if the Conservatives were already talking about sending Anderson back into the party “less than 48 hours after suspending him”.

Harper said: “I think the firm and decisive leadership which took the whip away from him very quickly when he refused to retract and apologise sends a very strong message that we don’t tolerate people saying such things in the Conservative Party.”

Kay pushed: “You can’t be proud over how the Conservative Party looks over this issue.”

Harper admitted: “I would much rather Lee Anderson hadn’t said what he said.”

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