BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has landed himself and the corporation in hot water once again, this time on the government’s controversial asylum policy.
The Home Secretary said this morning she is “obviously disappointed” and the BBC is understood to have spoken to Lineker and reminded him of his responsibilities after he described yesterday’s policy for handling Britain’s small boats crisis as “beyond awful.” He went on to equate the language used to sell the policy with “that used by Germany in the 1930s.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Today in the past hour, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she is “obviously disappointed” by Lineker’s comments. “I don’t think [comparing the policy to Nazi Germany] is an appropriate way of framing the debate,” she added.
Given that he is contracted but not employed by the BBC, the former footballer does not have to abide by the corporation’s most stringent social media impartiality rules but he has nonetheless been spoken with.
Lineker’s comments made the front pages of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph this morning.
This is not the first time Lineker has taken an outspoken stance against the UK government.
In October, the BBC’s complaints unit found he had broken impartiality rules in a tweet asking whether the ruling Conservative Party planned to “hand back their donations from Russian donors”. The comment came after then-Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged football teams in Premier League to boycott the Champions League final in Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. In 2018, after BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew called on him to “keep your political views to yourself,” Lineker responded: “I’m the face of my own Twitter account. I’ll continue to tweet what I like and if folk disagree with me then so be it.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has social media guidance, which is published. Individuals who work for us are aware of their responsibilities relating to social media. We have appropriate internal processes in place if required.”
The comments were made in response to a planned overhaul of the British asylum system to attempt to stem the small boats crisis, which will see laws put in place that prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive in the country illegally.
People illegally claiming asylum will not be allowed to benefit from the UK’s modern slavery laws and will either be detained illegally, returned to their home country or taken to a third country such as Rwanda, with which the UK has an arrangement. The overhaul has been a long time in the making and is likely to be one of the key policies on which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fights the next general election.
Refugee campaign and lobby groups have responded with shock and concern. The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said it is “profoundly concerned” by laws that are a “clear breach of the Refugee Convention,” according to a spokesperson.
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