BBC ‘under Tory pressure’ at ax from Gary Lineker, says Labour’s Rachel Reeves

A Manchester City fan holds up a sign in support of Gary Lineker.

A Manchester City fan holds up a sign in support of Gary Lineker.

The BBC “bowed to pressure” from the Tories by removing Gary Lineker from Match of the Day, said Rachel Reeves.

The shadow chancellor said the company should reverse its decision, sparking a mass revolt that threw its sports coverage into chaos.

Reeves also pointed out that BBC leader Richard Sharp, who has donated huge sums to the Conservatives, has kept his job despite his role with Boris Johnson, who secured a loan of up to £800,000.

The BBC announced on Friday that Lineker was “resigning” from presenting the match of the day this weekend over a tweet criticizing the government’s crackdown on migrants.

He said some of the language used by the ministers was like “Germany in the 1930s”.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, Reeves said: “Whether or not you agree with Gary Lineker’s tweets and I wouldn’t have used that language, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that you should be able to present football commentary on the BBC over a weekend.”

Referring to Richard Sharp, she added: “He’s still at his job. Gary Lineker unable to present football commentary? I think there is a sense of proportionality here.

“The Tories have obviously put enormous pressure on the government to get rid of Gary Lineker. I don’t recall the same Tory MPs weeping for impartiality when these revelations about Richard Sharp came out.”

Reeves, who appeared on BBC One with Laura Kuennsberg on Sunday, said: “The BBC has clearly come under enormous pressure from the Conservative Party to take Gary Lineker off the air.

“I think it’s a shame that the BBC has bowed to this pressure. I would urge the BBC to reconsider this decision as I think it is now totally disproportionate.”

Meanwhile, Lineker’s son George has said his dad will not budge down the line.

He told the Sunday Mirror: “Dad is a good man, a good person and I’m proud of him for being true to his word. That’s why he was pulled from the show – because he didn’t want to apologize. But he will always stand up for people who have no voice.

“He is passionate about supporting refugee organizations – he has taken in two refugees who he is still in contact with and trying to help.

“It means a lot to him to stand up for people whose only hope is to escape a country with just their clothes on their backs. That’s why he was so tight.

“Will he return to Match of the Day? I think so – he loves Match of the Day. But he will never break his word.”

BBC director general Tim Davie, who made the decision to suspend Lineker, said he was seeking a solution to the dispute but insisted he would not resign over his handling of the matter.

He said: “I think my job is to serve the feepayers and deliver a BBC that’s really focused on first class, impartial pioneering results – and I look forward to resolving that situation and I look forward to doing that to deliver.”


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