Former footballer Gary Lineker accused the British government of “immeasurably cruel” immigration restrictions
BBC sports presenter Gary Lineker could face dismissal after comparing a new government immigration plan to the policies of Germany in the 1930s, according to a former top official at the state broadcaster.
Lineker kicked off a firestorm of criticism on Tuesday after sending a pair of tweets taking the Conservatives to task for a new border proposal seeking to curb the flow of illegal immigration, calling the plan “beyond awful” while drawing a comparison to Nazi Germany.
“There is no huge influx [of illegal immigrants]. 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,” he added.
Amid outrage from Tory MPs and officials – among them Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer – the BBC stated it was taking the matter “seriously” and would have a “frank conversation” with the ‘Match of the Day’ host, who said he had been in touch with BBC director-general Tim Davie.
The BBC’s former chief of editorial policy, Richard Ayre, suggested Davie would be forced to sack Lineker over the comments, telling BBC Radio 4 “I don’t think he is going to have any choice but to let him go unless he can be certain that this is the end of it.”
However, on Thursday the host said the “ridiculously out of proportion” response to his tweets seemed to be “abating,” indicating that he would not face dismissal following discussions with higher-ups at the broadcaster. Though it remains unclear whether he will see any disciplinary action, Lineker said he stands by his comments, vowing to “continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice.”
Lineker later received support from fellow journalists, with Sky News pundit Adam Boulton saying he is “entitled to say what he likes” on social media, especially given that he does not cover political subjects. TV personality Piers Morgan also backed Lineker on similar grounds.
Though BBC reporters are ostensibly required to remain impartial toward political matters in their public commentary, Lineker is not a permanent staffer, but rather a freelance employee, meaning he is not subject to the same guidelines. However, the BBC also maintains separate rules governing the use of social media which apply to all of its workers, and warns that violations could lead to “disciplinary action” up to and including “possible termination of employment in serious circumstances.”