Lee Anderson has had the Conservative whip suspended following his widely criticised claim that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was controlled by “Islamists”,

A spokesperson for the party’s chief whip Simon Hart said the decision had been made following the former Tory deputy chairman’s “refusal to apologise” for the remarks made on Friday.

Pressure had been mounting on Rishi Sunak to take action over the comments from the Ashfield MP, with Mr Khan saying the “deafening silence” of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet amounted to condoning racism.

A spokesperson for Mr Hart said: “Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the Chief Whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP.” 

The “deafening silence” from Rishi Sunak and his Cabinet over Lee Anderson’s widely criticised claim that Sadiq Khan is controlled by “Islamists” amounts to condoning racism, the London mayor has said.

The Prime Minister is under pressure to act over remarks made by the Conservative former deputy chairman, with senior figures in the party ranks among those publicly condemning the comment.

The Herald: Rishi Sunak with Lee AndersonRishi Sunak with Lee Anderson (Image: PA)

Responding to the claim on Saturday, Mr Khan said it was “Islamophobic, racist” and pours “fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.

He told broadcasters: “These comments from a senior Conservative are Islamophobic, are anti-Muslim and are racist.

“We’ve seen over the last two days confirmation that over the last few months there had been an increase in anti-Muslim cases by more than 330%.

“I’m afraid the deafening silence from Rishi Sunak and from the Cabinet is them condoning this racism.”

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The Prime Minister faced calls from Labour for Mr Anderson to lose the whip after he said the London mayor had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps distanced himself from the comments on Saturday’s broadcast media round, but stopped short of criticising them.

He suggested that the MP for Ashfield had a right to “speak (his) mind” as he was pressed on whether the remarks were acceptable.

But other senior Conservatives hit out at the claim, with business minister Nus Ghani branding it “foolish and dangerous”.

The Herald: Grant Shapps Grant Shapps (Image: PA)

Former chancellor Sajid Javid described the remark as “ridiculous” while Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s Number 10 chief of staff, said it was a “despicable slur”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Saturday, Mr Shapps said he had not seen the comments first-hand but added: “It’s certainly not the way I would put things.

“I think there are more concerns about the way that some of these (pro-Palestinian) protests have been taking place, in particular what we saw projected on to Parliament this week, but I certainly wouldn’t phrase things like that.”

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The senior Cabinet minister was criticised by Labour’s Anneliese Dodds, who accused him of being unable to call out his fellow Tory MP’s “racist and Islamophobic comments”.

Ms Ghani later posted on X: “I have spoken to Lee Anderson. I’ve called out Islamic extremism (& been attacked by hard left, far right & Islamists).

“I don’t for one moment believe that Sadiq Khan is controlled by Islamists. To say so, is both foolish and dangerous. Frankly this is all so tiring.”

Asked whether Mr Anderson should lose the Tory whip, Mr Shapps said the matter was “one for party itself”.

The Defence Secretary declined to say whether the MP for Ashfield is a good representative voice for the party, saying only that “we live in a democracy where people are allowed to speak their mind and Lee Anderson, I think, is famed for speaking his mind”.

In an appearance on GB News, Mr Anderson had said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

The Muslim Council of Britain said the comment was “disgusting” and criticised the “silence of the party in the face of such extremism”.

A spokesperson said: “In a week where we learn of an explosion in Islamophobic hate crimes, influential MPs and a donor to the Conservative Party are endorsing common talking points that peddle conspiracy theories and Islamophobic tropes of alleged Muslim takeovers of our country.”

Ashfield Independent council leader Jason Zadrozny said the town “deserves better” and “Lee Anderson is an embarrassment”.

A Conservative Party source said: “Lee was simply making the point that the mayor, in his capacity as PCC (police and crime commissioner) for London, has abjectly failed to get a grip on the appalling Islamist marches we have seen in London recently.”