Rishi Sunak hails ‘great presenter’ Gary Lineker in shock backing for BBC host

Rishi Sunak Gary Lineker row

Rishi Sunak has hailed Gary Lineker as a 'great presenter'

Richard Jeffries

By Richard Jeffries

Published: 11/03/2023

- 19:13

Updated: 11/03/2023

- 23:02

Prime Minister lavishes praise on Match of the Day star but defends Government’s asylum policy

Rishi Sunak has praised Gary Lineker as a “great footballer and presenter” in a shock intervention in the Nazi Tweet row engulfing the BBC.

The Prime Minister said the dispute between Lineker and the BBC is “a matter for them, not the Government” as he acknowledged “not everyone will always agree” with his new asylum policy.

The controversy, in which the broadcaster took the sports pundit off air - prompting a wave of BBC walkouts - began when Lineker branded the Government’s plans to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel as “immeasurably cruel” and compared the language used to launch the policy with 1930s Germany.

Commenting for the first time since the BBC stood Lineker down from Match Of The Day hosting duties, the Prime Minister said he hopes the dispute can be “resolved in a timely manner”.

He continued to defend his proposals to permanently ban asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on unauthorised small boats.

In a statement, Mr Sunak said: “As Prime Minister, I have to do what I believe is right, respecting that not everyone will always agree. That is why I have been unequivocal in my approach to stopping the boats.

“Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a talented presenter. I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but it is rightly a matter for them, not the Government.

“While that process is ongoing, it is important that we maintain perspective, particularly given the seriousness of the issue at hand. Forty-five thousand people crossed the channel illegally last year, many of whom have been exploited or trafficked by criminal gangs, putting their lives in danger.

Gary Lineker Suella Braveman

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“We need to break this cycle of misery once and for all and the policy we set out this week I believe aims to do just that. It is not only the fair and moral thing to do, it is also the compassionate thing to do.

“There are no easy answers to solving this problem, but I believe leadership is about taking the tough decisions to fix problems. I know not everyone will always agree, but I do believe this is fair and right.”

Gary Lineker Nazi tweet

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Twitter / Gary Lineker

An 'Alternative Match of the Day' will instead be hosted tonight on GB News, hosted by comedian Mark Dolan with fellow presenter Patrick Christys and Breakfast TV legend Eamonn Holmes.

Former BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis, who was reprimanded by the BBC for retweeting a post criticising the Government’s response to the pandemic, said the corporation could face a “bigger battle” following its decision.

“I’m not sure when they suggested to Gary Lineker he step back from #MOTD the BBC realised it might be starting a much much bigger battle”, she wrote.

GB News presenter and former leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage has called on the ex-footballer to say sorry.

He tweeted: “Gary Lineker has been spreading hate and should apologise.”

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