All eyes have been trained on Gary Lineker’s Twitter account since the Match of the Day host struck a deal with BBC management to return to work this weekend, and he has not disappointed.
In amongst numerous tweets about football, Lineker has slammed a Conservative MP for “outrageous and dangerously provocative” accusations against him and retweeted a video of former Prime Minister Theresa May’s criticism of the government’s proposed immigration bill. Scroll down for both.
Lineker responded angrily to a Conservative MP, Jonathan Gullis, who claimed during a Channel 4 News interview that the former England footballer had called people in the North of England “racist bigots and Nazis.”
The clip and a screenshot was widely shared on Twitter and Lineker quote-tweeted one of these screenshots with the remark: “No he hasn’t and never would. This is outrageous and dangerously provocative.”
Lineker was stood down by the BBC last weekend for comparing the government’s language around its asylum policy to Nazi Germany and he at no point accused UK citizens of behaving like “racist bigots and Nazis.”
He retweeted May’s outburst against the policy yesterday – another Channel 4 News clip – in which she used a parliamentary debate to say immigrants would “have the door to the UK shut in their face” under the government’s proposals. May, a former Home Secretary, also described the policy as a “blanket dismissal” of those facing persecution.
Lineker’s retweet will raise a few eyebrows, given that he has agreed to abide by the BBC’s social media guidelines for presenters in the interim before the BBC updates these guidelines in the coming weeks, with the terms of an independent review set to be outlined in the coming days.
While the retweet of May’s criticism is far more subtle than the “Nazi Germany” tweet, his Twitter timeline will nonetheless continue to face scrutiny between now and the review. Many will have noticed he has changed his Twitter image to a picture of him stood in front of a mural reading: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
May was speaking in the Houses of Parliament just after the opposition Labour Party’s Culture Secretary Lucy Powell compared the BBC’s suspension of Lineker to “something out of Putin’s Russia.”
Attempting to take the heat off the matter, Conservative Culture Minister Julia Lopez chided Powell for her language and said the Lineker matter is for the BBC to resolve internally. After initially taking umbrage with Lineker’s “Nazi Germany” tweet, reports have stated the Conservatives are now keen to let the BBC handle the situation, which will take criticism of the asylum policy out of the headlines.
Lineker will present Match of the Day as per usual on Saturday and the BBC will be hoping to avoid any further disruption following a weekend during which presenters, pundits and commentators on a multitude of sports shows downed tools.
Separately, BBC local news journalists are striking today – the day of the Chancellor’s first budget – over plans to axe 50 roles and combine local programing.
With the Fiona Bruce and BBC Singers scandal also rumbling on, it is not an easy time to be BBC top brass.