Paul Scully claims UK has 'no-go areas' amid Conservative anti-Muslim hate row

Paul Scully's comments risk raising tensions after Lee Anderson refused to apologise for remarks about London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Tower Hamlets in London, which Conservative MP Paul Scully has described as a 'no-go area'. Getty Images
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Conservative MP Paul Scully claimed parts of East London and Birmingham with large Muslim communities are “no-go areas”, further fuelling allegations of anti-Muslim sentiments within the UK's ruling party.

The former minister was speaking in an interview about comments made by fellow Tory MP Lee Anderson, who was suspended from the party after claiming Islamists had “got control” of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Anderson has refused to apologise for his comments on GB News, where he presents a weekly show. He said the comments were clumsy, but “weren’t racist at all” and that apologising “would be a sign of weakness”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said Mr Anderson's comments were wrong, but that he himself was “living proof” the party was not racist.

Mr Scully made his “no-go areas” claim during an interview with BBC London on Monday, when he was asked about Mr Anderson’s remarks.

“The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying," Mr Scully said. "That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands Mayor, described the claim as nonsense.

He wrote on X: “The idea that Birmingham has a ‘no-go’ zone is news to me, and I suspect the good people of Sparkhill.

“It really is time for those in Westminster to stop the nonsense slurs and experience the real world. I, for one, am proud to lead the most diverse place in Britain.”

Legal migration minister Tom Pursglove said Mr Scully should withdraw his claims.

“I think it would be best, again, if that comment was withdrawn." Mr Pursglove said on Tuesday. “I don't recognise that as being the situation in London or Birmingham, but we as politicians must always be forward leaning and on the front foot when it comes to integrating people into our communities and making sure that people are able to play a full contribution in UK society.”

Mr Pursglove said Mr Anderson should also withdraw his comments.

“I think that what Lee said was wrong and he shouldn't have said it," he said. "The Chief Whip asked him to apologise and to withdraw those comments, and he didn't do so, and so that left no option but to withdraw the whip.”

Asked whether he thought the comments were anti-Muslim, Mr Pursglove said: “I don't think Lee personally is racist but what he said was unacceptable.”

He also said he thought Mr Anderson had “many, many merits”.

In a new attack on Mr Khan, the now-independent MP Mr Anderson referred to pro-Palestinian marches that have taken place regularly in London since the start of the war in Gaza.

“Hundreds of people had been arrested for racist abuse on these marches and we barely hear a peep from the Mayor," he said. "If these marches were about something less fashionable, Sadiq Khan would have been the first to call for them to be cancelled. It’s double standards for political benefit.”

The Labour Mayor wrote in the Evening Standard on Monday: “It shouldn’t be hard to call out comments that are so unambiguously ignorant, prejudiced and racist. Yet those at the top of the Conservative Government are stubbornly refusing to do so."

Mr Sunak, who is the first Hindu and person of Asian heritage to be British Prime Minister, said of Mr Anderson's original attack on Mr Khan: “It’s a tacit endorsement of anti-Muslim hatred and can only lead to the conclusion that anti-Muslim bigotry and racism are not taken seriously.

“We’re a proud multi-ethnic democracy, one of the most successful anywhere in the world.

“I am standing here as living proof of that and it’s important that we work hard to protect that, because that’s one of the things that makes our country incredibly special.”

Updated: February 27, 2024, 11:04 AM