Row over Gary Lineker’s anti-government tweets like ‘Putin’s Russia,’ claims Labour

Row over Gary Lineker’s anti-government tweets like ‘Putin’s Russia,’ claims Labour
Опубликовано: Tuesday, 14 March 2023 14:27

Hitting back, Tory minister Julia Lopez says opposition is kicking a ‘political football.’

LONDON — Gary Lineker’s temporary removal from BBC hosting duties over tweets attacking the U.K. government is like something out of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the opposition Labour Party charged Tuesday.

In a heated House of Commons exchange, Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell made the link to the Russian leader’s regime, known for brutal press crackdowns — but was swiftly branded “disgraceful” by her government counterpart.

It marks the latest clash over the Lineker row, which has consumed attention in Westminster and prompted criticism of the U.K. broadcaster over the past week.

Lineker — one of the BBC’s most recognizable stars — was removed from a hosting duties after using Twitter to attack Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent immigration clampdown, likening the language used to sell it to 1930’s Germany. He was reinstated Monday after a walkout by fellow stars and as BBC bosses ordered a review of social media guidelines.

Speaking during an urgent Commons question Tuesday, Powell asked Shadow Culture Secretary Julia Lopez: “What does [she] think it looks like when a much-loved sports presenter is taken off-air for tweeting something the government doesn’t like?” And she added: “It sounds more like Putin’s Russia to me.”

Lopez denied that the government has had any role in the row and said the nod to Putin’s government was a “disgraceful comparison to make.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly stressed that the issue is a matter for the BBC.

“While our department regularly engages with the BBC on a range of issues, at no time has any of us as ministers sought to influence the BBC’s decision on this case in any way,” Lopez said, accusing Powell of using the sports-based row as a “political football.”

Quizzed earlier Tuesday on the BBC’s handling of the Lineker affair, broadcast regulator Ofcom’s Chief Executive Melanie Dawes told a Commons scrutiny committee it had “been a really difficult episode for the BBC,” and hadn’t been “a great weekend for sports fans” either as shows were taken off-air. Ofcom stands ready to provide advice to the BBC on its social media guidelines for stars, she said.

For now, the row shows few signs of going away as Tory MPs continue to attack the broadcaster and Labour politicians continue to attack the government. “As POLITICO notes, we are now on Lineker day eight,” Lopez told MPs Tuesday.

Tom Bristow contributed reporting.

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