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BBC could be reformed because of the failure to deal with Gary Lineker

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Gary Lineker: Government discuss BBC 'impartiality' for presenters

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The Government is under pressure to bring in new controls of the BBC if it fails to tackle presenters like Gary Lineker who break its impartiality rules. Former Culture Secretary Sir John Whittingdale has added his voice to anger that Lineker has not been properly dealt with after he compared the Government’s new immigration laws to 1930s Nazi Germany.

Sir John intervened today in the Commons (video above) as fury broke out over the comments by the Match of the Day presenter on his Twitter account.

Even leading Labour MPs like Emily Thornberry and Lloyd Russell-Moyle thought the former footballer’s comments were “ill-advised”.

But many Conservative MPs believe that Lineker should get the sack for his inflammatory language which broke BBC rules on impartiality.

Speaking at culture, media and sport questions in the Commons today, Sir John said that the outcome of the case should impact the BBC’s future governance and regulation.

He pointed out that the BBC is currently undergoing its midterm Charter review which is considering whether tougher controls should be brought into the taxpayer funded broadcaster.

The review could also end up having an impact on the licence fee when the next Charter is renegotiated.

Sir John implied that Lineker had only been spared so far because he is the BBC’s highest paid presenter earning more than £1.2million a year.

Speaking in Parliament, he made a dig at Lineker, saying: “Does [the minister] agree that the requirement to be politically impartial must cover all those who are presenters on the BBC including the highest paid?

“While individual contracts are a matter for the BBC, will she confirm that the midterm review will cover the issue of enforcement of this rule on freelancers as well as full-time employees?”

Replying, the current Culture secretary Lucy Frazer resisted tying the scandal to the future of the BBC for now but expressed her disgust at the presenter.

She said: “As somebody whose grandmother escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s I think it is really disappointing and inappropriate to compare Government policy on immigration to events in Germany in the 1930s.”

Later, Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt entered a spat with Lineker by mocking the former England striker’s skills as a footballer when she attacked Labour.

She said: “They’ve borrowed from Lineker’s playbook. Labour are a party of goalhangers and left-wing strikers. That doesn’t work in politics.

“The country needs centre forwards, people who are prepared to put the hard work in and create opportunities. And it needs a team captain with a plan.”

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But Lineker hit back on Twitter saying: “Thank you for mentioning me in your clumsy analogy. I’m just happy to have been better in the six-yard box than you are at the dispatch box. Best wishes.”

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, whose Illegal Migration Bill triggered Lineker into his original Twitter rant, warned that he had “diminished” the mass murder of six million victims of the Nazis.

She told the BBC’s Nick Robinson: “To hear that characterisation is offensive because – as you said – my husband is Jewish, my children are therefore directly descendant [sic.] from people who were murdered in gas chambers during the Holocaust. And my husband’s family feels very keenly the impact of the Holocaust, actually.

“To kind of throw out those kinds of flippant analogies diminishes the unspeakable tragedy that millions of people went through, and I don’t think anything that is happening in the UK today can come close to what happened in the Holocaust.

“So I find it a lazy and unhelpful comparison to make.”

The respected former BBC political editor John Sergeant warned that the BBC will probably end up having to sack Lineker.

He told Mariella Frostrup on Times Radio that Lineker is likely to be in “deep trouble” for comparing this Government’s policy to that of Nazi Germany.

He said: “I would have thought that he is in deep trouble. And I can’t quite understand why the BBC aren’t making it clear what his position is.

“And maybe this is the problem all along. They’ve not said, look, one more of these really controversial remarks. And comparing this government with the Third Reich is pretty strong, it’s about as strong as you can get in political terms. To do that, and then think you’ll get away with it, you can go on doing it.

“Now, of course, if he’s asked a straightforward question, are you saying you were wrong?

“He’ll say no, no, I was right about the Third Reich, presumably. But he was wrong in BBC terms on the BBC. We’ve got to make that clear. And if he continues in this way, well he’s out I would have thought.”

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