BBC TV presenter Gary Lineker
London (AFP) - England football great turned television presenter Gary Lineker refused to back down after coming under fire for comparing the British government’s new plan on illegal immigration to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
“I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly),” Lineker, 62, tweeted on Wednesday.
“I want to thank each and every one of you. It means a lot. I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice. Cheers all.”
The UK’s Conservative government intends to outlaw asylum claims by all illegal arrivals and transfer them elsewhere, such as Rwanda, in a bid to stop thousands of migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats.
Rights groups and the United Nations said the legislation would make Britain an international outlaw under European and UN conventions on asylum.
Lineker, a former England striker who presents the BBC’s flagship Match of the Day football programme, was warned by the broadcaster to respect its social media guidelines after lashing out at home secretary Suella Braverman, the minister in charge of the policy, on Twitter.
“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” Lineker said.
He added: “We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”
Braverman, responded to Lineker’s comments by telling BBC radio: “I’m obviously disappointed that he should attempt to equate our measures with 1930s Germany. I don’t think that’s an appropriate way of framing the debate.”
Lineker is the best paid presenter at the publicly-funded BBC with an annual salary of £1.35 million ($1.60 million, 1.51 million euros) according to figures published last year.
This is not the first time he has been attacked for commenting on politics, with BBC director general c telling him last year to avoid the subject.
A BBC source quoted by Britain’s Daily Telegraph on Wednesday said of Lineker’s asylum comments: “We are taking it extremely seriously and we are going to have a very frank conversation with him.”
Lineker has long insisted he is free to express his political opinions as he does not work for the BBC’s news or current affairs departments.
However, in October, he was found to have broken the BBC’s impartiality rules with a tweet about the Conservative Party.
Responding to Liz Truss, the then foreign secretary, urging a boycott of the Champions League final when it was still scheduled to be held in Russia last year, he wrote: “And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?”