Peter Gibson, Darlington MP, has responded to the leak of WhatsApp messages that showed him discussing the suspension of Lee Anderson.

The messages shown to Sky News are believed to show several MPs discussing his fate -  including Hartlepool's Jill Mortimer and Darlington's Mr Gibson.

In the messages, it has been reported that Mr Gibson called Mr Anderson a "huge asset to our party".

The Darlington MP has clarified his position by confirming that Mr Anderson does speak for a lot of people, including many in his constituency.

Mr Gibson also stated that he is opposed to all forms of anti-Muslim hatred and antisemitism.

He said: "A number of my private messages to colleagues have appeared in the national media, and whilst that breach of confidentiality is disappointing, the essence of those messages - that Lee Anderson reaches many people, including many in Darlington who have been in touch to regret his suspension, is factually correct.

"I am opposed to all forms of anti-Muslim hatred, antisemitism and racism. 

"The language used by Lee left the Chief Whip with little option when an apology wasn't forthcoming. 

"We have some very very difficult issues to grapple with as a society but we all must be careful with our language."

Mr Anderson has admitted that he was "clumsy" in his word choice but doubled down on his criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

In a statement released via GB News on Monday, the former Tory deputy chairman said: "If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.

"But when you think you are right you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness."

He said he had made comments "that some people thought were divisive".

"Politics is divisive and I am just incredibly frustrated about the abject failures of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan."

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: "As the Government has stated previously, there are issues in relation to the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia, which conflates race with religion, does not address sectarianism within Islam, and may unintentionally undermine freedom of speech.

"But as I’ve said, we have always been clear that this Government does not and will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred."

At the end of last week, Mr Anderson was suspended from the Conservative Party after telling GB News that "Islamists" had "got control" of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

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Mr Khan responded on Saturday saying that the Conservative MP was  "pouring fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred".

Up until January, Mr Anderson had been the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.

He resigned to rebel against the Government over the Rwanda vote.