Lee Anderson timeline as former Conservative Party deputy chairman joins Reform UK

Lee Anderson timeline as former Conservative Party deputy chairman joins Reform UK

Lee Anderson has joined Reform UK after the MP lost the Tory whip in February over his outburst regarding Sadiq Khan.

The Ashfield MP had been an independent after being thrown out of the parliamentary Tory party but has now linked up with Richard Tice and Nigel Farage at the Right-wing party.

He said: “All I want is my country back. Now this may sound offensive to the liberal elite. But it’s not offensive to my friends or family, my constituents and some of my constituents like my mum and dad, who told me they could not vote for me unless I joined Reform UK.”

Mr Anderson’s divisive outspokenness had helped him rise to the position of deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and won him a show on GB News but has also got him in trouble along the way.

Lee Anderson (PA Wire)
Lee Anderson (PA Wire)

Who is Lee Anderson?

Lee Anderson has been MP for Ashfield since 2019. The so-called red wall Nottinghamshire seat had been a Labour stronghold since 1979.

He won the Conservative Home website's backbencher of the year award in 2022 and, on winning the award, was praised for his blunt views on Brexit, Travellers and poverty.

However, he lost the party whip in February after refusing to apologise for comments he made about Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

In March, he joined Reform UK – his third political party, having entered politics as a councillor for Labour.

Mr Anderson worked as a coal miner for 10 years and then volunteered for Citizens Advice for another decade.

The 57-year-old is married to Sinead – a Tory councillor in Mansfield – and has two children from a previous marriage.

“From the Pits to Parliament,” he tweeted, after learning he had been made party chairman. “Feeling very proud.”

Here is a timeline of his glories and gaffes.

Suspension from the council for blocking Travellers

After entering politics in 2015, Mr Anderson became a ward councillor for Labour on Ashfield District Council. However, he was suspended by the group in 2018 after using boulders to deter Travellers from setting up camp.

He defected to the Conservative Party soon after.

Asking a friend to pose as swing voter for photo call, then winning election

After Gloria De Piero stepped down, Ashfield needed a new MP and the Tories pinned their hopes on lifelong Nottinghamshire man Mr Anderson to win the seat.

He was joined on the campaign trail by Daily Mail commentator Michael Crick. Before completing an apparently random door knock, Mr Anderson was overheard and caught on microphone saying to his friend on the phone: “Make out you know who I am… you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, all right?”

Nonetheless, 19,231 people voted to elect Mr Anderson as the seat's first Tory MP since the 1970s, one of several formerly safe Labour seats to go blue in 2019.

‘Let’s have them in a tent in the middle of a field’

Mr Anderson quickly established himself as a man with an opinion. He criticised Gary Lineker for “virtue signalling” when the football presenter hosted a refugee in his home and said meals could be made from scratch “for about 30 pence a day” – earning him the nickname “30p Lee”.

“Generation after generation” of people “cannot budget” or make meals properly, he told the Commons, as food prices rose to their highest level in 30 years.

In the run-up to the 2019 election, he said he wanted “nuisance tenants” to be living in a tent in the middle of a field. He also wanted them to be forced to pick potatoes from 6am every morning.

Using his case worker to make a political point

Continuing on from his 30p Lee rhetoric, Mr Anderson used the example of one of his staff to prove his point.

He wrote on Twitter: “Katy works for me. She is single and earns less than 30k, rents a room for £775pcm in central London, has student debt, £120 a month on travelling to work, saves money every month, goes on foreign holidays and does not need to use a food bank. Katy makes my point really well.”

Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone accused him of using his staff as a “political football”, while others pointed out the woman concerned did not have children.

One-man protest against England team kneeling before games

Mr Anderson said he would refuse to watch any of the England men’s football team’s games at Euro 2020 because of the players kneeling to support black rights causes.

Forgetting who is prime minister

At the Conservative Party conference in 2022, Mr Anderson had an unfortunate foot-in-mouth moment when he mistakenly said the Tories’ leader was Theresa May.

“We had Brexit, we had Boris, we had Jeremy Corbyn, that was three years ago, now it is a different ball game under Theresa May.” He was, of course, referring to Liz Truss rather than Mrs May, who was prime minister between 2016 and 2019.

Mr Anderson had been a loyal Boris Johnson supporter but said, “I feel like I’m dumping on my own family” upon calling for him to go last year.

Squaring up to Steve ‘stop Brexit’ Bray

As a long-time Eurosceptic, it seemed unlikely that Mr Anderson would be friendly to a man who perpetually campaigned for Brexit to be reversed.

However, when confronted in Westminster in January, Mr Anderson stepped things up. He pointed at Mr Bray and called him a “parasite” and a “delinquent” before swiping his hat.

A video shared on Twitter showed the scuffle as Mr Bray took his hat back, calling Mr Anderson “a piece of s***”, before enjoying a cigarette as the MP was ushered inside a building.

Later on, Mr Anderson said he would be prepared to enter the ring with Mr Bray for a charity boxing match.

Lee Anderson holds forth with his opinions in Parliament (UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor / PA Wire)
Lee Anderson holds forth with his opinions in Parliament (UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor / PA Wire)

Mocking man for ‘one Twitter follower’ then watching as his own count is beaten

In January 2023, careworker Chris Delaney disagreed online with Mr Anderson’s post, to which the MP responded: “[You are] hardly an influencer are you when even your friends refuse to follow you. Assuming you have friends.”

A few days and a lot of exposure later, Mr Delaney had 44,217 Twitter followers compared with Mr Anderson’s 44,203.

Claiming people are using food banks as a ‘free weekly shop’

He said at a Westminster debate: “We have got this culture now in some of these deprived areas where people are so dependent on food banks it is like a weekly shop for them.

“One particular family I was helping, really helping, and they were going to the food bank two or three times a week to get their groceries and then, you know, I see them in McDonald’s two or three times a week.”

‘F*** off back to France’

In an expletive rant, Mr Anderson shared his frustration when 20 asylum seekers had received a last-minute reprieve from joining the Bibby Stockholm housing vessel in August.

“If they don’t like barges then they should f** off back to France,” he said.

He became Tory deputy chairman in February 2023 but left the role in January 2024 to vote for an amendment on the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Former Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson poses for pictures with Leader of Reform UK party Richard Tice (AFP via Getty Images)
Former Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson poses for pictures with Leader of Reform UK party Richard Tice (AFP via Getty Images)

Losing the Conservative whip and joining Reform UK

One month after stepping down as deputy chairman, Mr Anderson was suspended from the parliamentary Tory party for comments he made about Sadiq Khan.

In an appearance on GB News, Mr Anderson had 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.”

When questioned about the remarks, last month Mr Khan responded: "These remarks from a senior Conservative are racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Muslim."

Mr Anderson was suspended from the parliamentary party following these remarks. He said in a statement: “Following a call with the chief whip, I understand the difficult position that I have put both he and the prime minister in with regard to my comments. I fully accept that they had no option but to suspend the whip in these circumstances.”

In March, he joined the Right-wing party Reform UK saying: “All I want is my country back”.