Lee Anderson says Tories should fight election on ‘culture wars and trans debate’

Lee Anderson says Tories should fight election on ‘culture wars and trans debate’

The Tories will have to find the general election on the trans rights debate and other “culture war” issues, the party’s controversial new deputy chairman Lee Anderson has said.

Mr Anderson – known for his forthright opinions dismissing food bank use and bringing back the death penalty – said the party could no longer rely on Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn as vote winners.

The right-wing MP for Ashfield said the Tories will now have to “think of something else” in a bid to cling at the election expected in 2024.

Speaking to New Culture Forum prior to his promotion by Rishi Sunak, the former Labour councillor said: “The big thing in terms of 2019, there were three things that won us the election.”

“It was nothing to do with me, it was Brexit, it was Boris, it was Corbyn and it was as simple as that. Those three things together were a great campaign – great ingredients,” he said.

Mr Anderson added: “At the next election we haven’t got those three things so we’ll have to think of something else. It’ll probably be a mix of culture wars and trans debate.”

The MP went on to said immigration and the rise in small boats coming across the English Channel were the number one issue for voters, suggesting it would also be a part of the election strategy.

“When we voted for Brexit, we promised to control our borders but it’s got worse,” he said, adding: “That’s what winds people up and that’s what fills my inbox every day.”

Mentioning the culture war issue of statues, Mr Anderson said it was “disgusting” to see protesters deface the Winston Churchill monument. He also mentioned the Black Lives Matter protests in Whitehall – saying it was “sickening” to see them “goading” the police.

“That wouldn’t happen under Maggie [Thatcher] … That would have been dealt with immediately. There would have been horses in, and there would have been robust action taken and there would have been a few carted off to hospital,” he said.

It comes as leading business figure Iain Anderson quit the Tories after nearly 40 years and switched his allegiance to Labour – citing plans to stoke a culture war.

Mr Anderson, founder of the public relations giant Cicero, said he was switching to Labour in part because of the Tories’ plan to use divisive issues involving vulnerable groups.

The business chief said discussions with Tory insiders had led him to believe that Mr Sunak would ramp up the tactics in the run-up to the 2024 general election – with issues around trans rights likely to be exploited.

“I don’t want any part of a culture war – I’m a big tent person, so I’ve got to the end of the road with the party. Some of the ads on Twitter on the trans issue, which is complex and sensitive, look Trumpian to me,” he told The Independent.

It comes as Mr Anderson is set to be sued for libel after making comments about a man who runs a food bank in his constituency.

Lawyers acting for Michael Hollis, who runs a food bank charity, said he was “outraged” after the Ashfield MP made claims about money in “brown envelopes” changing hands in relation to a planning application.

A former Labour councillor before joining the Tories, Mr Anderson has a long history of controversial remarks, having dismissed widespread food bank use and the England men’s football team for taking the knee in protest at racism.

He has been dubbed “30p Lee” for claiming that meals could be prepared for that sum and suggesting people using food banks could not budget or cook properly.

After being named Tory deputy chairman last week, Mr Anderson clashed with a BBC radio presenter over a video of him setting up a fake doorstep encounter with a friend during the 2019 election.

The outspoken Ashfield MP got into a feisty exchange about the clip with BBC Radio Nottingham presenter Verity Cowley over the issue – accusing her of being “a liar”.