Gary Lineker reads columnist? | Sunday Observer

Gary Lineker reads columnist?

4 June, 2023

On March 1 this year, this writer’s column was published in this newspaper’s sister publication Daily News, explaining how among other things the language of Brexit had borrowed from the language of Hitler’s Germany. It’s recalled that in the column this writer tried his best to say this may be construed as unacceptable. The core idea was to say that all countries including Sri Lanka could learn from Brexit.

There is a whole paragraph or maybe two that emphasises that nothing compares even remotely to the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis. However, in the column, the writer stated Brexit was a disaster for the UK, and that every racialised and polarised nation can learn from Brexit and that the language of the better known Brexiteers is, somehow, resonantly similar in some ways to the language of the Nazis of the 30s in Germany.

Gary Lineker, the British football commentator says the same thing one week later, and raises a hornet’s nest. Good for him of course,though later the BBC that he works for suspends him. That turns him into a hero and an award-winner, because there are howls of protests against the BBC’s order to suspend him for breaking their so-called code with regard to observing impartiality in making public statements.


Before this columnist goes any further, it’s best to excerpt the relevant quotes. Here is what I wrote on March 1 of this month:

“The entire Brexit experience is reminiscent in a way of how Hitler took over Germany even though predictably people would say that’s a stretch — that it’s going too far, to make that comparison. The comparison is not by way of damage done. Of course, Hitler was a monster and the damage done to Germany and the world was incalculable. Hitlerite fascism was an evil project and nothing compares to it in terms of the destruction and utterly miserable consequences, and that goes without saying.

But it’s not in the extent of damage but in the sloganeering and the false pride that Brexit runs parallel to what Hitler did in Germany. Hitler’s rhetoric was demagoguery of the most wretched type and it was the sort that created sundry demons and inculcated false pride among people. The British are Europeans and the Germans are Europeans and it’s startling that so many years after World War II there is a project such as Brexit which relies on falsehoods and demonisation for sustenance.”

This is what Gary Lineker Tweeted on March 7, exactly a week later:

“There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”.

Soon it was clear that Gary Lineker was deemed not out of order. BBC took him back. He became celebrated for his resistance, and Amnesty International recently presented him with the Sports and Human Rights Award, which he accepted at a ceremony in Rome, Italy.

Lineker and this writer were stating the same thing basically because the anti-immigration/by extension anti-asylum policy is a large part of Brexit. Brexit-mania was drummed up by resort to demagogic speech about issues such as immigration and scaring British people with “language not dissimilar to what as used in the 30s in Germany”, which is what this writer and Lineker both stated in public, me it so happened, exactly a week earlier.


Lineker later said in an interview, “I am for freedom of speech – but in my experience of freedom of speech, particularly the people who campaign for freedom of speech, they’re all for it until they disagree with what you’re saying, and I think that’s always important to remember.”

How strange, it’s the experience of this writer too. By the way, Joan Salter, a holocaust survivor now living in the U.K. first confronted the Home Secretary Suella Braverman on her asylum-policy and stated that the Secretary’s language against refugees reminded her of the language used against her family when they narrowly escaped the holocaust.

Both Lineker and Salter were commenting on the asylum policy per se, but this writer in his column of May 1 was focussed more on Brexit and these words are worth repeating from my column in this context:

“The entire Brexit experience is reminiscent in a way of how Hitler took over Germany even though predictably people would say that’s a stretch — that it’s going too far, to make that comparison.”

So, here is a full quote from Suella Braverman explaining the antecedents of her policy:

“I campaigned to leave the EU because in part I wanted migration to fall. That was in our 2019 manifesto. If you look at net migration figures, they have not fallen – we’re pretty much at the same level as pre-Brexit.’ (Spectator, October 8, 2022.)

The Brexit campaign, it is clear, was in great measure due to the immigration bogey, and that’s what’s apparent from the above quote. Immigration got the likes of Braverman on board Brexit and made them the key adherents of the policy. So before the immigration and asylum-policy which are of course two sides of the same coin became associated with “hate filled language as in 30s Germany” it was Brexit that brought that rhetoric into the public discourse. So why not say it as it is? As this writer wrote on March 1, the entire Brexit experience is reminiscent of how Hitler took over Germany.

Why so? Because Brexit relies on bogeys, and all of the negatives used by Hitler and the Nazis, such as racial-superiority and xenophobia to foment anger and drive hate-filled persecution and discontent.

But on this score, it was not as if Lineker got a free pass. Far from it. He was pilloried for his comparison with the language of 30s Germany and here is an excerpt from an article authored by Nigel Jones that appeared in The Spectator in this regard.

“Can anyone – even a historical ignoramus – seriously pretend that the measure unveiled yesterday by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, themselves both the children of immigrants to Britain, bears any sort of comparison to the hateful words and vile crimes of Hitler’s Nazis? The idea is wholly absurd, and Lineker should stick to commenting on football – a subject that at least he actually knows something about.”


Of course nothing compares to the crimes of Hitler and the Reich and this was made clear by this writer in comparing Brexit demagoguery with Hitler, based on the sloganeering and the false pride that goes with Brexit. In a short tweet Lineker didn’t make this fine distinction clear and maybe that’s the Spectator columnist’s grouse.

But nobody needs be offended by a qualified comparison. Brexit or anti-immigration policy in Britain is nowhere near a crime as the holocaust was, and to suggest anything of that sort is ridiculous. But what’s valid is the comparison of the kernels of the two issues, i.e the language that’s used to demonise and hate on an entire people is the same. To condemn that language is perhaps to ensure in some way that Brexit Britain, god forbid, doesn’t ever go to that place that Hitler’s Germany occupied, anytime in the future.

The Spectator writer states that Lineker should stick to something he knows about such as football. By that yardstick what would he tell real-life holocaust survivor Joan Salter? That she should stick to surviving holocausts and such things, rather than comment about something she knows nothing about? How appropriate would that be?

This writer’s article with the Hitlerite Germany reference to Brexit, was titled Every Country Could Learn Something from Brexit. Hate- filled language and projects that ‘other’ people of different backgrounds and ethnicities have no place in civilised societies anywhere.

It’s important stating that in this country’s context too. We went through the experience of a torrid war, and thankfully it’s over. But there is no place for any type of hangover that demonises people, and propagates hate-speech or divisive language of any kind. Incidentally, Gary Lineker, football specialist, is welcome to comment on that too.