Exclusive:Lee Anderson comments: Language of former deputy Tory party chairman and Suella Braverman fuelling 'cesspit' of Islamophobia online, says Anas Sarwar

The Scottish Labour leader says some politicians’ language is helping to ‘ferment division and hatred’ on social media

Anas Sarwar says the inflammatory language being used by the likes of MPs Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman is helping to fuel the “cesspit” of Islamophobia online.

The Scottish Labour leader, who was the first Muslim leader of a major UK party, said the language chosen by some politicians was helping to “ferment division and hatred” on social media, and was also creating a hierarchy of prejudice.

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Mr Anderson had the Conservative whip removed after saying on GB News that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was being controlled by Islamists, and then refused to accept the comments were Islamophobic.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World.Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman later defended Mr Anderson, saying the row over his comments was akin to “hysteria”.

Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman during a visit to Bonnyrigg Rose Community Football Club, Mr Sarwar said: “It’s undoubtedly the case that prejudice and hate is fermenting online, and the language used by politicians is helping to ferment that division and hatred.

“I think politicians of all political parties have a responsibility to use appropriate language and terminology when discussing these issues. I think the language of Lee Anderson, Suella Braverman and the silence of [former prime minister] Liz Truss gets us into the cesspit of online activity that we should all be resisting or pushing back against.”

The Scottish Labour leader said these sorts of comments could give younger children the impression there was a “hierarchy of prejudice” as government politicians were able to “pick and choose what is and isn’t appropriate”.

Mr Sarwar said: “There’s that old saying that words shouldn’t hurt, but actually with what’s happening online, these words have an effect. For me we have a responsibility to take the heat and hatred out of our politics, rather than having politicians using hateful language to formulate their political agenda.”

When asked how we would have handled someone in his own party using language like this, Mr Sarwar said: “Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism or any form of prejudice or hate has no place in our party. They do not represent Labour values and I think as a party born on the principle of equality, we should hold ourselves to the gold standard.

“I hope people who hold these prejudiced views aren’t welcome in any mainstream political party.”

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Mr Sarwar said he was “baffled” at the chaotic scenes that were seen in the House of Commons last week after a vote on a Gaza ceasefire. Several MPs walked out in protest after Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle chose a Labour amendment on an SNP debate about a ceasefire in the region.

The Labour amendment, which called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, ended up being passed after Conservative MPs refused to vote on the debate. Since then, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has called for the Speaker to resign, and accused UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of “effectively bullying” Sir Lindsay Hoyle into choosing the Labour amendment.

However, Mr Sarwar has defended Sir Keir, saying this rhetoric takes away from the seriousness of the debate.

He said: “The idea there was some kind of untoward behaviour like that fails to recognise the seriousness of the situation. I’m absolutely baffled that somehow an issue of life and death for the people of Israel and Palestine has been turned into a political process grievance by the SNP and their relationship with the speaker.

“The big story coming out of Parliament last week should have been the fact that Parliament backed an immediate ceasefire. We should now be speaking with one voice to exert international pressure on our allies to say put down the weapons, stop this fighting, and get a ceasefire now.”

Mr Sarwar said members of the public would only see “politicians shouting at each other while children die somewhere else in the world”.

The UK Conservative Party has been approached for comment.



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