Gary Lineker is no stranger to social media’s hotter waters.

So when he tweeted “Anything going on?” yesterday morning, he did so in the full knowledge that his Tory critics were steadily reaching boiling point over his drawing of parallels between the Government’s new policy on small boats and Nazi Germany.

On one level, the row over the Match of the Day presenter’s remarks on Twitter is a straightforward political dust-up.

Lineker has a long record of speaking out robustly on human rights issues such as refugees.

And anything that emphasises clear electoral water between, as they see it, a left-leaning intelligentsia and Conservative resolve is probably not seen as unhelpful in Downing Street.

But the row raises more intractable issues about the boundaries of freedom of expression and lessons of history.

The BBC can with some justification point to its impartiality rules and let it be known that it is seeking a “frank” discussion with Lineker.

At the same time the corporation faces several difficulties. Lineker is a freelance broadcaster, not an employee, and there can be no serious suggestion that holding strong views on asylum is incompatible with offering an authoritative analysis of football.

Indeed, as former Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis pointed out, Lineker and his Beeb colleagues were able to query Qatar’s human rights record during the World Cup.

More challenging are the rights or wrongs of invoking the evils of the Nazi regime as a yardstick for contemporary divisions.

The line between the two sacred principles of public duty and public debate is often necessarily unclear.

By admin