Who is Lee Anderson? Conservative Party deputy chairman says people use food banks as a ‘weekly shop’

Lee Anderson has had a lively political career in a short space of time, since becoming an MP just four years ago  (PA Media)
Lee Anderson has had a lively political career in a short space of time, since becoming an MP just four years ago (PA Media)

Lee Anderson has recently been named deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, a promotion for the man who has been Ashfield MP since 2019.

The title is a reflection of the achievements of the controversial 56-year-old, who has split public opinion with his out-there views.

He won the Tories’ backbencher of the year award in 2022 after securing the Nottinghamshire seat, which had been a Labour stronghold since 1979.

On winning the backbencher title while serving his so-called red-wall constituency, the MP was praised for his “blunt views” on Brexit, travellers, and poverty.

On a personal level, he 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 of his promotion. “Feeling very proud.”

But it has not been plain sailing for the controversial MP, who has most recently sparked anger, saying people are abusing food banks and using them as a “weekly shop”.

He made the controversial comment at a debate at Westminster Hall.

He has previously questioned the need for food banks and suggested some people were using them out of choice rather than necessity.

Mr Anderson worked as a coal miner for 10 years and then volunteered for Citizens Advice for another decade. He has made as many enemies as friends during his relatively short time in politics.

Here are some of his headlines.

‘Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed’

A few days before his unexpected appointment, Mr Anderson stated his support for the reinstatement of the death penalty, in an interview with The Spectator magazine.

When asked if he would support the reinstatement of the death penalty, Mr Anderson responded: “Yes.”

He added: “Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100% success rate.”

In the UK, the death sentence for murder was permanently abolished in 1969 and for all offences in 1998.

Suspension from 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. 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 their first Tory MP since the 1970s, one of several formerly safe Labour seats to go blue in 2019.

Later in 2019, the new MP was among three Tories (with Sally-Ann Hart and Richard Short) investigated over allegations of antisemitism. The results of the investigation have not been made public.

Mr Anderson was an active member of Ashfield Backs Boris, a Facebook group where Soros conspiracy theories have been promoted and which includes supporters of the far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

The Jewish Chronicle reported in January 2021 that he and Ms Hart, MP for Hastings, had attended online training sessions organised by the Antisemitism Policy Trust charity. These were to give them a greater understanding of what constitutes anti-Jewish racism.

The Jewish Chronicle quoted Mr Anderson as saying: “I apologised for being a member of the group that allegedly posted offensive remarks. I never saw any antisemitic comments and no-one has ever provided any proof.

“However, I left the group once the allegations were made, after no evidence was provided to substantiate the claims made against me, the Conservative Party investigation has concluded.

“I am extremely happy with the robust way in which the Conservative Party handled the investigation, which highlighted to me they will not tolerate any form of prejudice or discrimination.

“Following the conclusion of the investigation, I asked for myself and staff members to voluntarily attend training, as I think it is imperative that we all take part in regular training to ensure we are fully aware of discrimination and prejudices that have no place in our society.”

‘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 case worker to make 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.

He said: “[They are] supporting a political movement whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life.”

A Labour source said: “You have to wonder why Lee Anderson would rather sit at home watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote than cheering on our lads.”

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’ve got the gutter press lurking around every corner trying to cause problems,” Mr Anderson said.

“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 friends with a man who perpetually campaigns for Brexit to be stopped.

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 smoking 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.

‘I wouldn’t follow Eddie Izzard into the toilets’

Mr Anderson courted further controversy in October 2022, after he misgendered trans comedian and prospective Labour candidate Eddie Izzard.

“Is that what’s coming to Parliament?” he told Talk TV. “I think it opens a whole new debate, mate.

“I’m going to be honest now, controversial as always, if [she] does get elected and I’m still here, I shouldn’t be following [her] into the toilets.”

Ashfield councillor David Hennigan reported Mr Anderson to the police and to the Conservative Party for comments he deemed to be transphobic.

However, a Met spokesperson told PinkNews: “On Thursday, 27 October we received a complaint in relation to comments made during a television interview given on College Green, Westminster on Wednesday, 26 October.

“The complaint has been assessed and no offences have been identified. As a result no further action will be taken.”

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, 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.”