BRAINTREE MP James Cleverly has come under fire for suggesting that LGBT football fans heading to the World Cup in Qatar should be “respectful of the host nation”.

It came after veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell said he was arrested after staging the first LGBT protest in the country to highlight its human rights abuses.

Mr Cleverly urged fans to show “a little bit of flex and compromise” and to “respect the culture of your host nation”.

But Mr Tatchell, 70, hit back at the remarks, saying the Foreign Secretary should instead “highlight the abuses being carried out by the regime”.

Going to the World Cup is “colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime”, the activist said.

Mr Cleverly told LBC radio: “I haven’t spoken with the government of Qatar in direct response to Peter Tatchell, but my understanding is that he was questioned, that he was supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s consular team.

“I have spoken to the Qatari authorities in the past about gay football fans going to watch the World Cup and how they will treat our fans and international fans.

“They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves, and they know that that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.

“One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation.

“They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.”

Mr Cleverly also took a swipe at Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader said he would not attend the World Cup, even if England reach the final, due to Qatar’s human rights record.

“As leader of the opposition, he’s in a lovely position to send messages. I’ve got real work to do,” said Mr Cleverly, who retained his position at the helm of the Foreign Office in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tuesday reshuffle.

Mr Tatchell added: “The UK Government must use its public voice to condemn the appalling human rights abuses carried out daily by the Qatari regime.

“Unless we all speak out, Qatar will have achieved its goal of sports washing its appalling reputation during the World Cup. Mr Cleverly has an opportunity to highlight the abuses being carried out by the regime.”

In a video released on Tuesday, Mr Tatchell said he was “subjected to interrogation” while detained for 49 minutes after carrying out the demonstration outside the national museum in Doha.

He was later released by the Qatar police and flew to Sydney, Australia.

Qatar’s government communications office said “no arrests were made” and that “rumours on social media that a representative from the Peter Tatchell Foundation has been arrested in Qatar are completely false and without merit”.