Everything Lee Anderson has said about Reform UK

As he defects to Reform UK, Lee Anderson is being reminded of some less than flattering comments he made about the populist party not too long ago.

Former Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson (R) shakes hands with Leader of Reform UK party Richard Tice (L) as they pose for pictures following a press conference to announce his defection from the Conservative party to Reform UK, in London, on March 11, 2024. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
Former Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson (right) shakes hands with Reform UK leader Richard Tice. (Getty Images)

Lee Anderson has defected from the Conservative Party to Reform UK, having had the Tory whip removed after he accused London mayor Sadiq Khan of being controlled by "Islamists".

Announcing his move to Reform, the MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire said his former party had stifled "free speech", adding that he found it "unpalatable" that he had been disciplined for "speaking his mind" and claiming other Tory MPs shared his views but would not stick their heads “above the parapet”.

Meanwhile, Richard Tice, the leader of the populist right-wing party, told the same press conference that he had found a "champion of the red wall" in Anderson, referring to the traditional Labour Party stronghold in the North where the Tories made sweeping gains in the 2019 election.

“He’s also coincidentally going to be Reform UK’s first member of parliament in the House of Commons," Tice added.

However, some previous remarks made by Anderson about Reform UK are coming back to haunt him, particularly the former Tory deputy chairman agreeing there was "no conceivable world" in which he'd join the party.

Here, Yahoo News takes a look at all the things Anderson has said about Reform in the past, and his attempts to justify his comments today.

File photo dated 06/02/24 of Lee Anderson during the launch of the Popular Conservatism movement at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Mr Anderson has had the Conservative whip suspended after making a widely criticised claim that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was controlled by
Lee Anderson insists he is not defecting because he had the Tory whip removed. (PA)

I wouldn't 'knife Tories in the back' by defecting

In an interview with the Telegraph in January, in which he said he wished he had voted for Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill, Anderson played down suggestions he was considering joining Reform UK.

Asked if there was any "conceivable world" in which he'd defect from the Tories, he said: “It was them that financially backed me, it’s them that’s protected me, it’s them that’s given me a political home... So why would I knife them in the back?”

He added that Reform UK was trying to "destroy" the Tories because it believes Labour would introduce proportional representation, which would give fringe parties better chances of winning seats in parliament.

But at Monday's press conference, Anderson said these previous remarks had been an attempt to throw journalists "off the scent", adding: "That's just politics, darling."

“It’s politics. We’re all grown-ups in this room, aren’t we? I’m not going to play my full hand. I’m not going to play a full hand, I’m not going to reveal my full hand to you," he added. Asked whether he could still be trusted to tell the truth, he said: “I’m not bothered about if you can trust me.

“Let me tell you this, and print this, nobody trusts any of you lot in this room, journalists, they don’t trust you full stop, so my conscience is clear.”

I was offered 'a lot of money' to join Reform UK

In a secret recording of a “Lagers with Lee” meeting at Cambridge Rugby Club in October 2023, Anderson claimed he was offered “a lot of money” to defect to Reform UK, the Sunday Times reported.

Speaking at the event, organised South Cambridgeshire Conservative Association, he 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.”

This was immediately after asking "we’re not taping this, are we?", which was met with laughter by the crowd.

Tice denied that any money had been offered, saying: “Desperate Tories will make desperate lies to save their skin.”

DONCASTER, YORKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM - 2024/02/24: Reform UK leader Richard Tice takes to the stage to speak to conference, outlining the policies in their draft contract to voters. Reform UK held its Spring conference at Doncaster Racecourse hard on the heels of two good by-election results in Wellingborough and Kingswood where they polled 13 and 10% respectively. Reform UK is regularly polling in double figures and plans to stand candidates in all 650 wards in the next general election. (Photo by Martin Pope/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Reform UK leader Richard Tice strongly deined that any Tory MPs had been offered money to defect. (Getty Images)

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme in November, Tice said he was very "happy to confirm" that he'd had numerous discussions with a number of Tory MPs angry with their party's handling of immigration.

“Obviously I will keep those discussions completely confidential, but let me make it absolutely clear: no cash or money has in any way been offered. What has been offered is the chance to change the shape of the debate," he added.

Contrary to his comments in October, Anderson told Monday's conference that “no money has been offered at all” to entice him to join Reform.

Richard Tice is a 'pound shop Nigel Farage'

Speaking about Reform UK earlier this year to GB News, Anderson said: “This is not a proper political party, by the way, this is a company."

Referring to Tice, he said: “I think he’s a pound shop Nigel Farage and every time he opens his mouth recently on whichever media platform, he is coming across as Reform’s answer to Diane Abbott. He’s just saying ridiculous things.”

He added: "I get on with Richard reasonably well, but I would say this – he’s not Nigel Farage, he’s not the leader that Nigel Farage was. In fact, I agree with one of my constituents, who said to me earlier today he is a bit of a pound shop Nigel Farage.”

GB News pays Anderson a £100,000 salary, on top of his £86,584 MP pay, to present a show on its network.

MARYLAND, UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 23: Former Member of the European Parliament and former Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage delivers remarks as he attends the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland, United States on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Anderson said Tice is 'not the leader that Nigel Farage was'. (Getty Images)

'I would have defected even if whip wasn't removed'

Anderson insisted his defection has nothing to do with the Tory whip being removed, suggesting he would have made the move anyway.

At Monday's press conference, he said: "My parents have been saying to me for weeks now, you cannot win, we can’t vote for you being in the Conservative Party. If my parents are saying that, what chance have I got?"

Friends and family told me to join Reform UK, 'I had to listen'

Anderson suggested his friends, family and staff had told him to join Reform UK and that he had "to listen" to them.

At the press conference in Westminster, he told reporters: “I had 4,000 emails last week in my emails, I had a sack full of mail, not just from my constituency, from all round the country. And when my friends and my family, my staff are telling me to join the Reform Party, then I have to listen.”

The MP, who defected from Labour to the Tories in 2018, added "my country comes first". Asked about the possibility of a by-election, he said: “You’re talking about reckless, it would be pretty reckless for me to suggest a by-election when we could have a general election in May. There’s your answer.”

Reform UK will allow me to 'speak for people who feel they're not being listened to'

Joining Reform UK will provide an opportunity to speak for people who don't have a voice, Anderson has claimed.

He told Monday's press conference: “It is no secret that I’ve been talking to my friends in Reform for a while. And Reform UK has offered me the chance to speak out in Parliament on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who feel that they’re not being listened to."

He added: “People will say that I’ve took a gamble. And I’m prepared to gamble on myself, as I know from my mailbag how many people in this country support Reform UK and what they have to say. And like millions of people up and down the country, all I want is my country back.”

Former Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson (R) and Leader of Reform UK party Richard Tice (L) speak during a press conference to announce his defection from the Conservative party to Reform UK, in London, on March 11, 2024. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
Anderson said there had been 'several tipping points' over the last few months that drove him to Reform UK. (Getty Images)

It's been a 'gradual journey'

Asked what had changed enough to persuade Anderson to jump ship, Anderson told reporters: “There’s not been a turning point. We all know that sometimes politicians are about as trustworthy as journalists in what they say and do.

“But it’s been a gradual journey, and I think there’s been several tipping points over the past few months. Like I said in my speech, I’ve had to do a lot of soul-searching about where I am, what I’m doing.

“And when I find myself suspended for speaking my mind – and, by the way, speaking up on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who agree with me – that for me is unpalatable. It’s a shocker, if I’m honest.

“I cannot be a part of an organisation which stifles free speech, and many of my colleagues in that place, in the Conservative Party, do back me on this privately.”

'I think more Tories will join Reform UK'

Anderson said obliterating the Conservatives at the next general election is not “at the top of my agenda”, as he predicted more Tories would join Reform UK.

“My vision for this party is to win seats like Ashfield… places that I think have been let down by my old party, he said on Monday.

“I have to be with a party that puts this country first, rather than their mates at the tea parties and clinking their champagne glasses.”

He added: “It’s a sad day that I’m leaving my colleagues. But if I’m honest, this time next year they’ll be sat on the same benches as me.”

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