A Tory MP has criticised a senior party figure who was suspended after accusing London's mayor of being controlled by Islamists.

Desmond Swayne, who represents New Forest West, said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was right to withdraw the Conservative whip from Ashfield MP Lee Anderson.

The former deputy party chairman is now sitting as an Independent in the House of Commons.

Sir Desmond, 67, said: "I regret his suspension for his tirade against Sadiq Khan but his refusal to apologise left the PM with no alternative.

"There were plenty of perfectly proper things that Anderson could have taken Khan to task over. He has been a dreadful mayor, squandering the legacy left by his predecessor. His record on housing, transport, police, and almost everything else has been lamentable.

"To accuse him of being controlled by Islamists, however, is absurd.

Daily Echo: Lee Anderson has been suspended over comments he made on GB NewsLee Anderson has been suspended over comments he made on GB News (Image: GB News)

"Many constituents have registered their disgust at Anderson’s treatment. They believe he has so often articulated their own thoughts and they are concerned about the way freedom of expression is being diminished.

"I understand those concerns, but politicians do need to be cautious about the language that they use.

"It is quite wrong to conflate ‘Muslims’ with Islamist extremists."

READ MORE: Ministers refuse to call Lee Anderson's comments 'Islamophobic' as row drags on

But Sir Desmond said it was perfectly proper to examine aspects of Islam, including the role of women, attitudes to homosexuality, Sharia councils, and teachings on apostasy.

"In a liberal society an important aspect of public life, like Islam, must accommodate itself to the discomforts of public scrutiny and free discussion," he said.

READ MORE: Police 'assessing' hate speech report against MP Lee Anderson

"As a Christian, I am used to the criticism of my religion, both fair and unfair, and I’ve been critical of it myself too. Islam must be subject to the same rigour, and Muslims free to be equally critical of it.

"Politicians, however, should endeavour to be accurate and justify their assertions with facts."

Daily Echo: Lee Anderson speaking in the House of CommonsLee Anderson speaking in the House of Commons (Image: PA)

 Mr Anderson was suspended on February 24 after refusing to apologise for comments he made on GB News during a discussion on an article by the former Home Secretary, Fareham MP Suella Braverman.

He said "Islamists" controlled London, Mr Khan and Labour leader Keir Starmer.

In a statement issued by GB News Mr Anderson admitted his words "may have been clumsy" but said they were "borne out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city".

Mr Anderson has received support from some Tory MPs, including former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg.