BBC chiefs are talking to Gary Lineker after he taunted Tory MPs including Cabinet Minister Grant Shapps after he was criticised for blasting the Government’s Rwanda plan, it was reported today.
Bosses at the broadcaster are reportedly speaking to the Match of the Day host after his latest outspoken foray into politics.
Lineker – who previously sparked controversy by comparing then Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s illegal migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany – last night signed an open letter challenging the Government’s new plan to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.
He then took aim at Mr Shapps and Tory MPs including ’30p Lee’ Anderson and Jonathan Gullis after they criticised him for the apparent breach of BBC impartiality rules.
The Times reports that BBC bosses are understood to be talking to Lineker for his latest tweets. Insiders took aim at the corporation’s social media guidelines, branding them ‘not fit for purpose’.
One told the newspaper: ‘We’ll be told that one thing is within the rules, and another is not. I’m sorry, but the rules don’t make any sense.’
BBC Bosses are reportedly speaking to Match of the Day star Gary Lineker after he made a series of tweets mocking Conservative MPs after he and several other celebrities signed an open letter challenging the Rwanda plan
Gary Lineker mocked Defence Secretary Grant Shapps for questioning his decision to co-sign an open letter opposing the Rwanda scheme
A mock-up showed the MP with three names Mr Shapps had previously used for ‘business purposes’
Lineker also hit back at Tory chairman ’30p Lee’ Anderson, who had said the British people wanted to ‘stop the boats and tell overpaid crisp salesmen to put a sock in it’. Pictured is Anderson’s tweet (bottom) and Lineker’s response (top)
Turning on Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis, who’d accused him of breaking the BBC’s impartiality guidelines, Lineker said: ‘Jonathan hasn’t read the new guidelines….or, should I say, had someone read them to him?’
Mr Shapps criticised Lineker’s stance and said he should ‘stick to football’ rather than ‘meddling in other areas’.
He tweeted in response: ‘A tad rich coming from someone who can’t even stick to one name. 4 chaps Shapps.’ A mock-up showed the MP with three names he had previously used for ‘business purposes’.
Lineker also hit back at Tory chairman ’30p Lee’ Anderson who had said the British people wanted to ‘stop the boats and tell overpaid crisp salesmen to put a sock in it’.
‘I guess we’ll find out what the will of the British people is at the next general election. If you do end up out of work, I’ll put in a word for you with @walkers_crisps,’ the Match of the Day presenter wrote.
And turning on Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis, who’d accused him of breaking the BBC’s impartiality guidelines, Lineker said: ‘Jonathan hasn’t read the new guidelines….or, should I say, had someone read them to him?’
Mr Shapps had criticised Lineker’s intervention earlier today on Times Radio.
Asked if the former footballer should speak out on the Rwanda scheme while working for the BBC, he said: ‘No. And he’s been through all of this before. The BBC have told him he shouldn’t do this type of thing but still it continues.
‘The point I would make to Mr Lineker is: what is right or moral about having people trafficked dangerously across the English Channel, losing their lives at sea, illegally entering the country? That is not a civilised, morally correct thing to do.’
Gary Lineker is among a host of celebrities who have put their names to the letter from campaigners Together With Refugees
Asked if Lineker should express those views while working for the BBC, Defence Secretary Mr Shapps said: ‘No. And he’s been through all of this before’
He added: ‘I just fundamentally disagree with him. What happens to him next is up to the BBC. ‘As far as I see it, they have issued previous warnings to him, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do and say at this point.
‘I know millions of people watch him for his football commentary and TV presenting, I would have thought it’s better to stick with that.’
Lineker later clashed on X with the Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, who tweeted: ‘Yet another breach of the BBC’s impartiality rules by @GaryLineker. But, sadly, spineless Tim Davie will do nothing about it, having surrendered to Lineker previously.’
The pundit said in response: ‘Jonathan hasn’t read the new guidelines….or, should I say, had someone read them to him?’
The pundit is among a host of celebrities who have put their names to the letter from campaigners Together With Refugees.
Actors Brian Cox, Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey, as well as Kaiser Chiefs musician Simon Rix, are among more than 30 people to sign the letter. Others include Unison union boss Christina McAnea and leaders of several faith groups.
The letter describes Britain’s refugee system as ‘ever-more uncaring, chaotic and costly’ and accuses the Government of ‘trying to banish people fleeing persecution to Rwanda’.
Addressed directly to the country’s ‘political leaders’, it says the Government’s policies ‘aren’t working’. The highly political tone of Lineker’s latest intervention is another brazen challenge to the authority of his BBC paymasters and potentially breaches its guidelines banning flagship presenters from taking up a role ‘in campaigning groups’.
Actor Brian Cox (pictured) is among more than 30 people to sign the letter
Actor David Morrissey (pictured), as well as Kaiser Chiefs musician Simon Rix, have also signed the letter
The letter states: ‘Our government is still trying to banish people fleeing persecution to Rwanda despite the highest court in the land ruling the scheme unlawful.
‘These policies aren’t working for refugees and they aren’t working for local communities. That’s why we have come together to say we’ve had enough. Enough of the division. Enough of the short-term thinking. Enough of the wasted human potential. And it’s why we now call for something better.’
Endorsing the activists’ demands, Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid star, said: ‘Refugees have escaped unthinkable horrors in their home countries.
‘We need a new system that reflects the will of the British people.’ The letter calls for the UK to uphold its commitments under international law, and demands the ‘scrapping of the Rwanda scheme’ and an overhaul of asylum policies.
Lineker’s remarks provoked a furious reaction among Tory MPs, who called for BBC director-general Tim Davie to intervene.
Jonathan Gullis said: ‘This is yet again another breach by Gary Lineker that goes against the BBC’s impartiality rules. But, sadly, spineless Tim Davie will do nothing about it, having surrendered to him previously. Either the BBC enforces the rules its presenters are bound by, or they no longer receive funding from the British taxpayer.’
Tory party deputy chairman Lee Anderson said: ‘For once in his life, Gary’s absolutely right – we do need a system that reflects the will of the British people. What the people want is to stop the boats and to tell overpaid crisp salesmen to put a sock in it.
‘Alongside cracking down on illegal migration, we need another robust system which keeps Lineker as far away from the public as possible, to give us all a rest from his Left-wing, out-of-touch nonsense.’
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: ‘Yet again BBC presenters are ignoring the BBC’s own guidelines by publicly campaigning. They seem to be laughing at their own bosses.’ The backlash will cause a fresh headache for BBC bosses at the end of a year marred by repeated crises over Lineker’s political crusading.
In March, the presenter was hauled off air after refusing to back down over a tweet comparing the Government’s language on asylum seekers to 1930s Germany.
But the corporation was forced into a humiliating climbdown when staff walked out en masse in support of Lineker and he agreed a deal allowing him to tweet about refugees and climate change.
Signing an open letter in support of a political cause is not explicitly covered by the BBC’s guidelines on impartiality, creating a grey area that could help Lineker.
But he could be seen to have broken other guidelines governing how ‘flagship programme presenters’ should conduct themselves publicly, which were drawn up to govern social media output. One section of the guidance says: ‘Don’t take up an official role in campaigning groups or become involved in fundraising for campaigning.’
Small migrants are brought ashore at Dover amid freezing conditions earlier this month
Rishi Sunak faces a crunch week that will determine the future of his crucial Rwanda policy
Since the showdown in March, Lineker has shown little sign of tempering his political outbursts and even gloated that the corporation ‘admitted they had got it wrong’ when they took him off air.
He used an interview with former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell to repeat his claim that the ‘language’ in the debate over the Rwanda refugee policy ‘reminds us of the debate in Germany in the 1930s’, adding: ‘I think that is factually accurate.’
Lineker, who earns £1.35 million a year from the BBC, also said that, after he was first suspended over his incendiary tweets, he found it ‘hard to see how it got resolved unless they backed down’.
In May, he flew to Italy to receive an award for his ‘woke’ political activism from Amnesty International. At the time, he was accused of indulging in a ‘self-congratulatory fest’. Days later, Lineker stoked more controversy by claiming the climate fanatics who had been causing chaos on London’s roads may well be remembered as ‘heroes’.
A BBC spokesman today told MailOnline, regarding Lineker’s tweets: ‘We aren’t going to comment on individuals or indeed individual tweets.
‘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. We discuss issues that arise with presenters as necessary.’
In another statement addressing the letter, they said: ‘Like all freelance presenters, Gary is free to contribute to projects for third parties, as long as these do not conflict with his BBC commitments; do not breach guidelines on conflicts of interest; nor bring the BBC into disrepute, and he does so regularly.’