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Reform UK denies offering ‘lot of money’ to Tory deputy chairperson Lee Anderson to defect

Party leader denies claims Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson was offered money to defect

Dominic McGrath
Sunday 26 November 2023 06:01 GMT
Related video: Tory MP claims nurses using food banks have 'something wrong with their own finances'

Reform UK has denied claims that it offered money to Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson to defect to the party.

The Sunday Times reported that Mr Anderson, an outspoken MP who has represented Ashfield since 2019, claimed last month to have been offered “a lot of money” to join the Nigel Farage-linked party.

Richard Tice, the leader of the Reform UK party, has rejected the claim – reportedly made by Mr Anderson at a South Cambridgeshire Conservative Association event last month.

According the paper, which has obtained a recording, Mr Anderson told activists: “Now there is a political party that begins with an R that offered me a lot of money to join them. I say a lot of money, I mean a lot of money.”

Mr Tice said: “These are the same libellous allegations first made by (Chief Whip) Simon Hart MP back in February.

“He heard from my lawyers. That case is still live to be progressed at my choosing.

“But I can confirm that I have had numerous discussions with a good number of Tory MPs who are fuming at their leadership.”

Mr Anderson has attracted criticism for a range of remarks on everything from food banks to illegal migration.

Earlier this month, after the Supreme Court struck down the government’s landmark Rwanda asylum plan, he suggested ministers should “ignore the law” and start sending asylum seekers to the east African nation.

But he is a favourite of activists and MPs on the right of the party.

Rishi Sunak earlier used an interview with the Mail on Sunday to warn dissatisfied voters against abandoning the party, amid fears among some Tory MPs about the electoral threat of Reform UK.

“A vote for everyone who is not a Conservative is a vote to put Keir Starmer into office,” Mr Sunak said.

It was reported by the Times earlier this year that Mr Hart had reported Reform UK to the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle over allegations that the party had offered MPs who defected a full salary for five years – even if the politicians lost their seats.

Mr Rice had at the time labelled the claims as “nonsense”.

The PA news agency has contacted the Conservatives whip’s office, as well as Mr Anderson.

The allegations come as Nigel Farage, the party’s honorary president, appears in the latest series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity.

Mr Farage, who led Reform UK during its previous incarnation as the Brexit Party, has been seeking to win over viewers with his stint on the reality show.

Reform UK has only taken small proportions of the vote in recent by-elections. But that has not stopped some Conservatives fearing that Mr Tice’s party could exploit voter unhappiness over small boats and immigration at the next general election.

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