Lisa Nandy has claimed that Gary Lineker was not referring to the Nazis in his comments on the Government’s migration policy.
Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter, was at the centre of an impartiality row last week and briefly stepped back from hosting Match of the Day after he sent a tweet about the new Illegal Migration Bill.
He had branded the small boats announcement “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.
However, the shadow levelling up secretary defended the host as she argued that the “language and behaviour” of Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and her colleagues risked having a “chilling” effect.
Ms Nandy told Sky News: “What people say Gary Lineker said is very different from what Gary Lineker actually said.
“The Government has been keen to say he's been likening this to the Nazis, he wasn't – and I would have utterly condemned that had he done so – I don't think he would have done so.
“What he was pointing to was a chilling comparison with an environment in which people aren't free to be able to challenge this sort of language and behaviour.”
Ms Nandy’s remarks broke from the views of her front-bench Labour colleagues, who last week interpreted Mr Lineker’s reference to “Germany in the 30s” as a comparison with the Nazis.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, described Mr Lineker’s language as “really very unfortunate”, insisting she would not have used the same words herself.
“I just think that there is a special place in hell for the Nazis,” she said. “I don’t think you should be making those comparisons. So I wouldn’t have said that. I think that he went too far.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said Lineker’s future was a “matter for the BBC”, but added: “I don’t think that what he said was right. I don’t think it’s the right thing to say.”
In an interview with The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, Ms Cooper said of the “Germany in the 30s” analogy: “I don't agree on that and I wouldn't use those words.”
Lineker returned to his BBC Sport hosting duties on Saturday to front live coverage of an FA Cup quarter-final after a “way forward” was agreed between him and the corporation.
The furore over his comments prompted the BBC to announce a review of its social media guidelines, with particular focus on how it applies to freelancers and those working outside of its news output.