Deputy PM tells Gary Lineker to keep out of politics amid migrant row

BBC’s Gary Lineker branded a ‘doomster’ and told to ‘swim in his own lane’ and keep out of politics by deputy PM Oliver Dowden amid row over Match Of The Day host’s partisan opinions

  • Tory MPs raise temperature on BBC over Gary Lineker’s political comments
  • Some MPs want Mr Lineker to be gagged during the next general election

Gary Lineker was told to ‘swim in his lane’ and stay out of politics by the Deputy Prime Minister today as the row over the BBC football host’s criticism of the Tories deepened.

Oliver Dowden used a round of media interviews to double down on criticism of the Match of the Day presenter over his attacks on immigration and individual ministers and Conservative MPs.

Amid growing anger in Downing Street – and rifts within the BBC itself – over the his partisan opinions, some MPs argued that the Corporation risked breaching election law if it continued to allow its highest-paid star to publicly criticise Government policy and mock candidates in the run up to the general election.

Last week Mr Lineker suggested to his 8.9 million followers on X/Twitter that Tory MP Jonathan Gullis could not read and that Lee Anderson, the party’s deputy chairman, would need to take a job with Walkers Crisps after the election.

He also mocked Defence Secretary Grant Shapps for having once used a pseudonym to run his business and has repeatedly criticised the Government’s plan to send illegal migrants to Rwanda.

Mr Dowden used an article in the Sunday Telegraph to attack ‘amateur BBC pundits’ who ‘seek to talk this country down and talk the Labour Party up’.

He did not name Mr Lineker directly, but when asked by Trevor Philips on Sky News whether he was referring to the MOTD host, he replied: ‘Well I think people should swim in their own lane. I know nothing about football punditry I can assure you of that.’

Oliver Dowden used a round of media interviews to double down on criticism of the Match of the Day presenter over his attacks on immigration and individual ministers and Conservative MPs.

The Match Of The Day presenter’s political comments have triggered anger in Downing Street and among Conservative MPs 

Samir Shah, the incoming BBC chairman, admitted to a cross-party group of MPs last week that the broadcaster’s guidelines appeared to have been breached by Mr Lineker and could have to be rewritten.

Under BBC social media guidance updated in September, ‘flagship programme presenters’ are advised not to ‘attack a political party’ or ‘criticise the character of individual politicians in the UK’.

They are also told not to comment ‘on any issue that is a matter of political debate during the election period for UK general elections’.

Last night, Mr Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The incoming BBC chairman thinks that Gary Lineker has breached the social media guidelines.

‘The BBC must be willing to take him off air for the next General Election.’

Tory colleague Tom Hunt agreed, saying: ‘Gary Lineker should have been shown the red card by the BBC months ago.’

Posts by Gary Lineker online about Defence Secretary Grant Shapps appeared to breach BBC guidelines, incoming corporation chairman Samir Shah told a cross-party group of MPs

Mr Lineker had mocked the Defence Secretary for having once used a pseudonym to run his business

Ipswich MP Mr Hunt added: ‘His position as a publicly funded presenter has clearly become untenable and he should have been sacked long ago.

‘The feebleness of the BBC leadership over this issue will further erode support for the licence fee.’

And Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford said: ‘At the very least, Gary Lineker should undertake not to tweet his opinions for the duration of the General Election campaign. Failing that, the BBC should itself impose a strict social media ban on the presenter for that period.’

It was reported yesterday that BBC colleagues of the presenter, who is paid £1.35 million for the Premier League highlights show, were becoming increasingly irritated by his behaviour.

One was quoted as saying: ‘People are sick of it. He doesn’t care that the BBC has more important things to deal with. Personal brands count for so much more now.’

It was also claimed that his outbursts risked damaging the BBC’s standing with MPs at a time when it had been handed a lower-than-expected licence fee rise which will leave a £90 million hole in its budgets.

Another BBC employee said: ‘He is tweaking the tail all the time. People are frustrated and feel as if they have been through it all before. They are saying that it makes us look daft when everyone else is obeying the rules.

‘The BBC has so many more important things to do.

‘It doesn’t need this at a time when the licence fee is much less than it thought and it needs to get out there and argue its case.

‘It’s a complete distraction.’

The BBC has declined to comment on ‘individuals or indeed individual tweets’.

But a spokesman added: ‘While the guidance does allow people to talk about issues that matter to them, it is also clear that individuals should be civil and not call into question anyone’s character.’

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