History of controversial comments by new Reform UK MP Lee Anderson

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson has attracted criticism for comments on everything from food bank use to nuisance tenants

Andy Gregory,Matt Mathers,Joe Middleton
Monday 11 March 2024 14:25 GMT
Tory MP claims nurses using food banks have 'something wrong with their own finances'

Lee Anderson has never been shy about coming forward with his views, several of which have sparked outrage among opposition politicians and campaigners.

Mr Anderson was thrust into the spotlight when he was appointed deputy chairman of the Tory Party last year - just weeks after reportedly comparing the government to the band on the sinking Titanic.

He later resigned from his position in January 2024 after refusing to back Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill that would see asylum seekers deported to the country.

Just a month later the Ashfield MP prompted outrage after anti-Muslim comments about London mayor Sadiq Khan that led to his suspension from the Tory party.

He refused to apologise and has now joined Nigel Farage’s right-wing populist party Reform UK.

Referring to his suspension by the Conservatives, he said that he found it “unpalatable” that he had been disciplined for “speaking my mind”.

Here we take a look at some of the Red Wall MP’s previous remarks and controversies.

Anti-Muslim comments about Sadiq Khan

Mr Anderson caused an uproar after he claimed “Islamists” had “got control” of Mr Khan and London.

In an appearance on GB News, he said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

The Tory whip was withdrawn after he refused to apologise for the remarks. Rishi Sunak said Mr Anderson had been suspended because his “choice of words wasn’t acceptable, it was wrong”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the diatribe from Mr Anderson as an “appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst”.

Despite the furore, Mr Anderson has consistently refused to apologise. He told GB News: “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.”

Support for the death penalty

Mr Anderson has previously said he would support the return of the death penalty.

Asked if he supported the return of capital punishment in an interview with The Spectator, he said: “Yes. Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed.”

“100% success rate,” he added.

The MP for Ashfield said it should be reserved for very serious crimes, such as the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was murdered by Islamic extremists in 2013.

He told the magazine: “You’ll get the certain groups saying: ‘You can never prove it.’

“Well, you can prove it if they have videoed it and are on camera - like the Lee Rigby killers. I mean: they should have gone, same week. I don’t want to pay for these people.”

Sharing staffer’s salary in food bank row

Mr Anderson – voted Conservative MPs’ favourite backbencher – has frequently questioned how many people genuinely need to use food banks.

Last January, to illustrate his point, he tweeted a picture of a member of his staff with details of her earnings and outgoings. The Ashfield MP claimed she was an example of someone earning less than £30,000 but did not need to use a food bank.

But the move was heavily criticised, and Mr Anderson was accused of “a form of bullying” by Labour MP Dawn Butler, who said she had reported him to the Commons authorities.

People who use food banks ‘cannot cook properly’

Tory MP claims there is no 'massive use' for food banks in UK

Mr Anderson’s feelings on food banks first made headlines in May 2022, when he invited fellow MPs to visit a food bank in his constituency to witness a “brilliant scheme” – whereby those in receipt of food parcels are forced to “register for a budgeting and cooking course”.

“We show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget – we can make a meal for about 30p a day – and this is cooking from scratch,” said the Nottinghamshire MP. “I think you’ll see first-hand there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country.

“We’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch, they cannot budget.”

According to the Trussell Trust, the largest network of food bank providers in the UK, the main drivers of food bank use are problems with the benefits system, challenging life experiences, ill-health, or lack of informal or formal support.

Its head of policy, Sumi Rabindrakumar, told The Independent at the time: “Food bank need in the UK is about lack of income, not food. Cooking from scratch won’t help families keep the lights on or put food on the table, if they don’t have enough money in their pockets.”

Nurses using food banks have ‘something wrong with their finances’

Tory MP claims nurses using food banks have 'something wrong with their own finances'

The Tory MP has continued to cast doubts over the necessity of food banks for many users, despite soaring demand, insisting that striking nurses did not need handouts.

“Anybody earning 30-odd grand a year – which most nurses are – using food banks, then they’ve got something wrong with their own finances,” he told Times Radio in December.

Royal College of Nursing general-secretary Pat Cullen responded that “to criticise anybody using a food bank is disgusting, heartless and dangerously out of touch”, adding that she has “met nursing staff from every corner of the nation – and their fear and fright about not being able to meet their bills is palpable”.

Challenging Brexit critic to a fight

Conservative MP Lee Anderson was angered by Steve Bray’s question about ‘liar’ Boris Johnson (Steve Bray / Twitter)

Mr Anderson also raised eyebrows when he described an anti-Brexit protester as “a parasite”.

In a verbal altercation with activist Steve Bray – who in return brands him “30p Lee”, in a nod to the MP’s claims about cooking and budgeting – Mr Anderson said: “You’re nothing but a parasite. We’ve established that. You’re a scrounger. Why are you here dressed like a tramp?”

Mr Bray told The Independent after the encounter: “Lee Anderson is very derogatory about those less fortunate in life, the fact he tries to imply I am a tramp and on benefits is insulting those people that actually are.”

The Conservative MP attempted to settle his feud with the “Stop Brexit” man in the boxing ring – after briefly stealing his “Not My Brexit” hat during a row outside parliament last week and repeating his “parasite” slur.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Anderson said: “He is a nuisance. And I’ve got a challenge for him: Meet me in the boxing ring. Let’s do three rounds.

“If I win, he never protests out there again. And if he wins, I’ll go and protest with him.”

Mr Bray told the paper he would consider it, saying: “I will think about it. I might have to get into a bit of shape first.”

‘Make nuisance tenants live in tents and pick potatoes’

Tory MP candidate Lee Anderson says 'nuisance tenants' should be forced to live in fields and pick potatoes at 6am every morning

Before even entering the House of Commons, Mr Anderson sparked anger by posting a video on Facebook arguing during his election campaign that “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents and pick potatoes.

Speaking directly to the camera, he said: “My plan would be … let’s have them in a tent in the middle of a field, six o’clock every morning let’s have them up, let’s have them in the field picking potatoes or any current seasonal vegetables, back in the tent, cold shower, lights out, six o’clock, same again the next day. That would be my solution.”

Rival parties compared the idea to “forced labour camps,” accusing Mr Anderson of “entrenching division”.

‘Make out you know who I am’

Tory MP candidate caught getting friend to pose as anti-Labour swing voter

Mr Anderson had a heated clash with a BBC journalist who tackled him about video and audio clips showing him setting up a doorstep counter during the 2019 election campaign.

Mr Anderson forgot he was wearing a microphone as he got one of his friends to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter, in a bid to impress a journalist with the fake encounter.

“Make out you know who I am... you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?” Mr Anderson was recorded telling his friend minutes before bringing a journalist to his door.

Once they arrived, the supposed swing voter then told the Tory candidate: “There’s no way Labour are ever going to get my vote again,” before heartily endorsing Mr Anderson’s ‘tenants in tents’ policy.

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