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Keir Starmer accuses ‘weak’ Rishi Sunak of harbouring ‘extremists’ in his party | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of harbouring extremists in his party after a senior Tory MP was suspended for “Islamophobic” comments.

The Labour leader said Rishi Sunak’s “weakness” allowed Lee Anderson “to act with impunity” and that he “needs to get a grip and take on the extremists in his party”.

Sir Keir said it was “right” that Mr Anderson lost the whip after what he called an “appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst”.

He added: “But what does it say about the prime minister’s judgement that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party?

“Whether it is Liz Truss staying silent on Tommy Robinson or Suella Braverman’s extreme rhetoric, Rishi Sunak’s weakness means Tory MPs can act with impunity.

“This isn’t just embarrassing for the Conservative party, it emboldens the worst forces in our politics.”

Prime Minister says Britain is 'not seeking a confrontation'

It came as Mr Sunak released his own statement, criticising those who have threatened and targeted MPs over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and saying British democracy must not “fall into polarised camps who hate each other”.

Mr Sunak said: “The events of recent weeks are but the latest in an emerging pattern which should not be tolerated.

“Legitimate protests hijacked by extremists to promote and glorify terrorism, elected representatives verbally threatened and physically, violently targeted and antisemitic tropes beamed onto our own parliament building.”

Referring to when the Commons Speaker broke convention in a Gaza ceasefire debate this week out of fears’ for MPs’ safety, Mr Sunak said: “And in parliament this week a very dangerous signal was sent that this sort of intimidation works. It is toxic for our society and our politics and is an affront to the liberties and values we hold dear here in Britain.”

His statement made no mention of Mr Anderson or his comments.

What Rishi Sunak didn’t say is more notable than what he did

The prime minister’s comments were notable because of what he chose to omit.

On a day when the party was rocked by allegations of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred – a day when it had to suspend one of its own MPs because of these very issues – Rishi Sunak chose to make some comments.

Instead of condemning the remarks or distancing the party from them, the prime minister chose not to make any reference to them at all, rather, he chose to speak more explicitly about antisemitism.

The prime minister said: “The explosion in prejudice and antisemitism since the Hamas attacks on the 7 October are as unacceptable as they are un-British. Simply put antisemitism is racism.”

We know that hate crime towards both Muslim and Jewish communities has been rising since 7 October.

However, some may question why, after a day like this, Mr Sunak chose to omit explicit reference to Muslim communities.

These comments, and the tone of the remarks, do not challenge the prevailing view held in some quarters that the Conservative party doesn’t take Islamophobia seriously.

The prime minister avoids using the word at all when discussing anti-Muslim hatred.

Of course, the Labour party, which over the years has faced accusations of antisemitism, had no such problem calling it out.

Sir Keir Starmer said: “It’s right that Lee Anderson has lost the whip after his appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst against Sadiq Khan.”

He went on to question Mr Sunak’s judgement saying he needed to get a grip of “extremists” in his own party.

The incident does expose how difficult the prime minister is finding it to exert authority over his fracturing right-wing coalition and create some semblance of a unified identity for his party.

He knows that he needs to placate the right of his party, which sometimes means turning a blind eye to some of its more outspoken characters, like Suella Braverman and Liz Truss.

However, there’s a line and it’s becoming more and more difficult for Mr Sunak to tread.

With this statement the prime minister was, once again, speaking to this right-wing faction (on a day when they lost a key figure in Lee Anderson) instead of the communities that may have been affected by his remarks.

On Wednesday, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he selected multiple amendments to the motion to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in a bid to ensure all options were on the table for MPs to vote on – as well as protecting MPs’ safety.

Mr Sunak’s party suspended Mr Anderson, the former Tory deputy chairman, hours before he released the statement.

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Khan: Anderson’s comments ‘Islamophobic and racist’

Read more:
Lee Anderson responds after suspension
Labour lead grows in ‘sea wall’ constituencies
Sammy Wilson steps down as DUP chief whip

Lee Anderson during the launch of the Popular Conservatism movement.
Pic: PA
Lee Anderson. Pic: PA

Mr Anderson claimed on GB News earlier this week – without evidence – that “Islamists” had “got control” of Mr Khan, leading to an outcry from both sides of the political divide.

The Ashfield MP said he accepts the Tory party had “no option” but to suspend him.

“However, I will continue to support the government’s efforts to call out extremism in all its forms – be that antisemitism or Islamophobia,” he said.

Water bosses to face ban on bonuses – but move ‘too weak and feeble’, say Liberal Democrats | UK News

Bosses of water companies responsible for illegal sewage spills are to face a ban on their bonuses after years of campaigns and public outrage.  

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay announced payouts would be blocked to chiefs who oversee the polluting of rivers, lakes, and seas – starting with bonuses in the financial year starting this April.

It was revealed bosses received more than £26m in bonuses, benefits, and incentives over the last four years.

Analysis by the Labour Party found nine water chief executives were paid £10m in bonuses, £14m in incentives and £603,580 in benefits since 2019.

Senior executives from five of the 11 water companies that deal with sewage took bonuses last year, while the other six, including heads of Yorkshire Water and Thames Water, declined after public anger.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay arrives in Downing Street, London, for an emergency Cobra meeting with ministers, police chiefs and national security officials, amid fears that the conflict between Hamas and Israel could have increased the domestic terror threat in Britain. Picture date: Monday October 30, 2023.
Steve Barclay announced the policy today. Pic: PA

There has been outrage around the illegal activity and calls by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to enforce the policy sooner, as water firms in England plan to hike customers’ bills by an extra £156 a year to invest in Britain’s Victorian infrastructure.

While Mr Barclay said he was “pleased” regular Ofwat was addressing bonuses following water companies’ poor performances, political opponents said the ban was “too weak and feeble”.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson and MP, Tim Farron, said: “Finally ministers have buckled to a campaign led by the Liberal Democrats over two years ago, but even now this attempt to ban bonuses sounds too weak and feeble.”

Mr Farron added the firms got away with “environmental vandalism” and called for the bonuses to be banned “today, regardless of criminal conviction”.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY AUGUST 10 File photo dated 08/10/19 of Liberal Democrat MP, Tim Farron, near Old Palace Yard outside Parliament, holding a sapling, amongst those placed by protesters, during an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest in Westminster, London. Water firms have been accused of a "scandalous cover-up" after being unable to show much sewage they are pumping into rivers and seas. Issue date: Thursday August 10, 2023.
Tim Farron said the policy was ‘too weak and feeble’. Pic: PA

Ofwat will consult on details of the proposed ban later this year, including to define the criteria.

This could include successful prosecution for the two most serious categories of pollution – such as causing significant pollution at a bathing site or conservation area, or where a company has been found guilty of serious management failings – according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It could apply to chief executives and all executive board members.

On the proposal, Mr Barclay said: “No one should profit from illegal behaviour and it’s time that water company bosses took responsibility for that.

“In cases where companies have committed criminal breaches there is no justification whatsoever for paying out bonuses. It needs to stop now.”

Labour claimed it was the spearhead for this change, with a statement from shadow environment secretary, Steve Reed MP, saying: “Once again Labour leads, the Conservatives follow.”

He called for the Tories to “back Labour’s plan” to clean up the rivers and prosecute executives responsible for illegal sewage dumping.

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What caused Britain’s sewage crisis?

Read more:
What’s gone wrong at Thames Water?
‘Sewage pumped into sea’ turns idyllic Cornwall cove brown

Labour said that under its plans, Ofwat could have blocked six out of nine water bosses’ bonuses last year.

Last year, Thames Water – which supplies one in four people in Britain – was fined more than £3m after pleading guilty to illegally discharging waste.

This included “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage near Gatwick Airport in 2017, which turned the water “black” and killed more than 1,000 fish.