By John Ensor •
Updated: 11 Dec 2023 • 13:52
Image of Gary Lineker.
Credit: Fred Duval/Shutterstock.com
A recent incident involving Gary Lineker has once again highlighted the controversial topic of celebrities voicing their political opinions.
Grant Shapps, the UK’s Defence Secretary, recently expressed his views on this matter, specifically targeting BBC Sports presenter, and former England footballer, Gary Lineker, 63.
On a Times Radio interview, Shapps suggested that Lineker, known for hosting ‘Match of the Day’, should focus on his television career and refrain from political commentary.
The statement follows Lineker’s participation in a public letter opposing the Government’s Rwanda scheme for refugees.
Lineker, along with other well-known figures and renowned actors Brian Cox, David Morrissey and Juliet Stevenson, have criticised the UK’s refugee system, describing it as ‘uncaring, chaotic and costly.’
They argue that the current asylum policies are ineffective. Previously, Lineker faced a BBC impartiality controversy for his comments on a Government Bill regarding asylum seekers.
This led to a temporary step back from his role at ‘Match Of The Day’, though he returned after support from fellow celebrities.
Jonathan Gullis MP also lent his voice to the agument on Twitter/X: ‘Yet another breach of the BBC’s impartiality rules by @GaryLineker. But, sadly, spineless Tim Davie [BBC Director-General] will do nothing about it, having surrendered to Lineker previously.’
Shapps questioned the morality of Lineker’s stance, highlighting the dangers faced by refugees trafficked across the English Channel.
He noted, ‘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.’
The letter in question, signed by various celebrities, coincides with parliamentary discussions on the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill. The Government aims to expedite this legislation after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the scheme.
The coalition behind the letter, Together With Refugees, emphasizes the need for a fair and compassionate asylum system.
According to their recent Focaldata poll, only 18 per cent of people believe the current system functions effectively, with the figure slightly higher, at 28 per cent, among prospective Conservative voters.
Lineker, actively supporting the campaign, stated, ‘We need a new system that reflects the will of the British people who have opened their homes, donated and volunteered in their local communities. That’s why I’m backing this new campaign – because fair really can begin here.’
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps commented: ‘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.’
Outspoken TV broadcaster Piers Morgan posted a sarcastic comment that actually sided with the iconic foortball personality: I’m appalled, once again, that @GaryLineker not only has opinions but actually expresses them. Where the hell does he think he’s living – a democratic country?’
In response to Shapps’ comments, the BBC reiterated their policy for freelance presenters, allowing them to engage in third-party projects as long as they do not conflict with BBC commitments or breach impartiality guidelines.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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