Mansfield MP: Gary Lineker has 'absolute right' to political view, but only in personal capacity

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Mansfield’s MP Coun Ben Bradley says TV presenter and footballing legend Gary Lineker has an “absolute right” to air his opinions on politics – but not while working for the BBC.

Coun Bradley, Nottinghamshire Council leader, spoke out after the BBC Match of the Day presenter divided opinion with a series of Tweets about the Government’s new Illegal Migration Bill.

It followed a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “This Bill will mean that, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay. You will be detained and removed to your home country, if safe, or a safe third country like Rwanda.

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“It’s not fair that people who travel through a string of safe countries and then come to the UK illegally can jump the queue and game our system. This Bill will bring an end to that. Enough is enough, we must stop the boats.”

Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader.Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader.
Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader.

In a string of Tweets, Lineker likened Ms Braverman’s comments to “that used by Germany in the 30s” – receiving support and condemnation in equal measure.

The BBC has clear polticial impartiality rules for directly employed staff and those working in news, but rules regarding freelance staff in other areas, such as Mr Lineker are often described as less clear-cut.

The BBC said it had a “frank conversation” with the former England striker following the tweets – and he has since been stood down from hosting Match of the Day while discussions over his use of social media continue.

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Coun Bradley said Lineker does have a right to air his opinions, but this should not be done while working for the corporation and only in a “personal capacity”.

Coun Bradley has previously received criticism on social media for posts about a range of issues including gender identity and benefits.

In his latest controversy, he shared an image of a Mansfield sign, with ‘Man’ replaced by ‘Them’ to read ‘Themsfield’ and a picture of non-binary singer-songwriter Sam Smith, who used the term ‘fisherthem’ on television while talking about his love of angling.

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Following an online backlash to his sharing of the photograph, Coun Bradley wrote in your Chad that “the right to free speech is essential to our country and democracy”.

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He said: “Exploring and discussing ideas is essential to our democracy and although I disagree with much of the criticism levelled at me on this subject, it’s a fundamental right to be able to comment.”

When asked if this “fundamental right” also applies to Lineker, Coun Bradley said: “Yes, absolutely, but in a personal capacity.

“The challenge with Gary Lineker is, unlike me, he works for an organisation that prides itself in being politically impartial.

“He has an absolute right to a view but, if you want to work for an organisation that absolutely sets its stall out as not being political, I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to share that in the way he has.

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“If he wants to go and work somewhere else then by all means. If I put a view out and it gets criticism, that’s fine and understandable.

“My roles are to have a view, people elect me to do so and that’s important. If he’s going to do the same, then he should also expect the criticism as well.”