It’s time to show preening, ignorant poseur Gary Lineker the exit door over his Nazi slur, writes former Jewish Chronicle editor STEPHEN POLLARD
Life has one iron rule: whenever somebody compares something they don’t like to the Nazis, you know they have lost the argument.
Sure enough, up pops Gary Lineker, the footballer-turned-TV pundit who has long exalted himself as one of Britain’s leading moral arbiters.
On Tuesday, in a despicable outburst, Lineker compared the presentation of the Government’s plan to tackle the small boats crisis to the behaviour of the Third Reich.
First, he tweeted that the new scheme was an ‘immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people’. (He is entitled to think this – even if, as a BBC presenter, he is not entitled to take public political sides whenever he feels like it.)
But Lineker couldn’t help himself. Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, he claimed, expressed ‘language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’. As a former editor of the Jewish Chronicle, I was moved to fury when I saw Lineker’s tweet.
On Tuesday, in a despicable outburst, Gary Lineker compared the presentation of the Government’s plan to tackle the small boats crisis to the behaviour of the Third Reich
Many of my family were murdered by the Nazis in death camps erected to wipe out the Jewish people. They are now just names to me. I have pictures of some to remember them by, but the lives of others have been utterly extinguished. To name them, even now, brings my mother to tears.
In his grotesque remarks, Lineker has insulted their memory. How they would have wished to live under a democratic regime such as ours – and how abhorrent of this fool to invoke such a comparison.
Frankly, if I had a pound for every time someone brought up the Nazis when discussing a government policy they disagreed with, I’d have a wage approaching Lineker’s £1.35million salary.
They think they are strengthening their point, but all they are really doing is highlighting to the rest of us the depth of their own ignorance. The Nazi regime was an exercise in state-sponsored mass murder, carried out with terrifying efficiency.
Whether you agree with the Government’s asylum policy or not, nobody can claim that its intention is to kill. In truth, it is exactly the opposite.
By ruling asylum applications from migrants who enter the UK by small boats inadmissible, the new law aims to discourage people from entering the frigid and treacherous waters of the Channel in the first place – or falling into the hands of murderous criminal gangs once they’re here.
In other words, the aim is to save lives. It’s a profoundly humanitarian ambition.
Either Lineker is cynically warping history to virtue signal to his 8.7million Twitter followers or he is an ignoramus, unaware of the horror of the Holocaust. Neither explanation would surprise me.
By ruling asylum applications from migrants who enter the UK by small boats inadmissible, the new law aims to discourage people from entering the treacherous waters of the Channel
If Lineker had an ounce of decency, he would reflect on the response that has greeted his bizarre remarks and apologise wholeheartedly, perhaps meeting with senior Jewish leaders and donating a fraction of his enormous fortune to Jewish charities. Instead, with characteristic arrogance, he has doubled down.
Yesterday he jovially tweeted: ‘Morning all. Anything going on?’ This sarcastic response was followed by: ‘Great to see the freedom of speech champions out in force this morning demanding silence from those with whom they disagree.’
But this is not about freedom of speech. It’s about facts. Let us be clear: he is effectively calling over half the country Nazis, since polling makes it abundantly clear that the majority of voters support measures to deal with the small boats crisis.
There are at least half a million illegal immigrants at large in the UK and their growing presence is consistently one of the main issues raised by voters.
Lineker’s behaviour would be depressing enough from a saloon-bar bore, but it is especially repellent in a man who seems to have convinced himself that the size of his Twitter following is commensurate with his own intellectual capacity.
I support Tottenham Hotspur: Lineker was a fine player for my team from 1989-92 and is a reliable TV presenter.
But his credentials are zero when it comes to social policy, geopolitics or anything beyond the merits and perils of a flat back four. And needless to say, he has no actual solutions to the small boats crisis.
Pictured: Stephen Pollard, former Jewish Chronicle editor
How much easier for him to wail about parallels with the Nazis than come up with a substantive approach to tackle the issue. It is frankly bizarre that Lineker has been able for so long to get away with flouting the fundamental BBC principle of impartiality.
When Tim Davie became director-general in September 2020, he declared that impartiality would be his watchword.
That month, he told a Commons committee: ‘If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.’ Quite so. Yet a glance at Lineker’s social media outbursts suggest that ‘partisan campaigner’ is exactly what he is – yet he is still working at the Corporation on that enormous salary.
When the then-foreign secretary Liz Truss urged a boycott of the Champions League final in Russia in February last year, Lineker demanded: ‘And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?’
On that occasion, a BBC investigation prompted by a reader complaint ruled that he had breached impartiality rules but it made no difference to his employment – or his behaviour. Lineker simply carried on as if nothing had happened.
Last August he attacked Tory MPs, saying: ‘As a politician, how could you ever, under any circumstances, bring yourself to vote for pumping sewage into our seas. Unfathomable.’
He regularly takes to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the Middle East, attacking Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. All of these are, once again, valid positions and you and I could debate them all night long.
But it is entirely inappropriate for the BBC’s highest-paid star to mouth off in such a partisan, political fashion.
The BBC remains impartial – or it dies. It’s as simple as that.
Unless its presenters scrupulously avoid taking sides – even on Twitter – it can no longer justify its means of funding by a regressive poll tax, backed up by the criminal justice system.
Nobody knows which way Fiona Bruce, Laura Kuenssberg, Claudia Winkelman, Justin Webb and many others vote.
I support Tottenham Hotspur: Lineker was a fine player for my team from 1989-92 and is a reliable TV presenter
Yet Lineker has left the nation in no doubt which party he would like to see in power.
The fact is, he has now crossed a line.
I have no truck with cancel culture. However much I disagree with Lineker’s inane mix of historical ignorance and brain-dead Leftism, I defend his right to say it… as long as he’s not working at the BBC.
Will Davie honour his word as this ignorant poseur continues to insult him, us and the millions who died in the Holocaust?
If he has a shred of sense, he will show this preening fool the door.
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