The six weirdest moments of Lee Anderson’s press conference as he defects to Reform UK

Lee Anderson, the former Tory chairman who was suspended by the Conservative party for Islamophobic remarks, has found a new political home with Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party.

Dubbed “three party Lee” for his journey from Labour councillor to Conservative MP and now to Reform UK, Mr Anderson’s switch marks a significant moment for Reform as he becomes the first sitting MP to join their party.

But, known for his blunt and sometimes hostile style, the Ashfield MP’s press conference and Q&A session was not without its share of odd and awkward moments.

Lee Anderson has defected to Reform UK (PA Wire)
Lee Anderson has defected to Reform UK (PA Wire)

Here are some of the strangest moments from that press conference:

1) Claiming his parents ‘could not vote for me’ if he stayed in the Tory party

Annoucing his decision to defect to the right-wing challenger party, the 57-year old MP said his mum and dad had told him they would not vote for him unless he switched to Reform.

Mr Anderson told the press conference: “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 donors.

“Constituents like my mom and dad, who told me they could not vote for me unless I joined Reform UK.

He added: “My parents are both nearly 80 and they get it and I must not let them down. As I said at the beginning, I want my country back.”

2) Clashing with Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby

Mr Anderson’s first spiky moment was with Sky News’ Beth Rigby who asked the MP whether his defection was “attention-seeking” and what he would say to former Conservative colleagues who had previously backed him.

Ms Rigby asked: “What do you say to people that say the problem isn't all these parties, the problem is you and this is all about attention seeking, and this has been very disloyal to Rishi Sunak who made you deputy party chairman and also to other colleagues that have backed you very firmly recent weeks ... What's your answer to them?”

Mr Anderson’s curtly responded: “Country, constituency and then party. Next question please.”

The political editor pointed out that Mr Anderson hadn’t answered her question, but the new Reform MP insisted on moving on.

The two spoke over each other as Ms Rigby asked:“What’s your message to Mr Sunak then? He hasn’t answered my question”.

Anderson proceeded to ignore Ms Rigby and selected a new question from another journalist.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice accompanied Lee Anderson on stage at the Reform UK press conference (PA Wire)
Reform UK leader Richard Tice accompanied Lee Anderson on stage at the Reform UK press conference (PA Wire)

3) Making a dig at the Sun’s political editor Harry Cole

Ms Rigby was not the only journalist on the recieving end of Mr Anderson’s ire, as he described The Sun’s political editor Harry Cole as a “pound shop” version on the Mail on Sundays political editor.

The comment came as Mr Cole pointed out that Mr Anderson had previously described Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice as a “pound shop Nigel Farage”.

“Just a few weeks ago, you described Mr Tice as a pound shop Nigel Farage and Reform’s answer to Dianne Abbot. What made you change your mind?” the journalist asked.

Mr Tice – who accompanied Mr Anderson on stage – laughed and said that “millions of British people” endorse the “concerns and sentiments” that the Ashfield MP has shared about Brits streets being taken over by “pro-Hamas extremists”.

“That's the concerns that people want to hear about,” he said.

Mr Anderson then added: “Also on that point, somebody described you as a pound-shop Glen Owen.”

Lee Anderson described Richard Tice as a ‘pound shop Nigel Farage’ (PA Archive)
Lee Anderson described Richard Tice as a ‘pound shop Nigel Farage’ (PA Archive)

4) Asking ‘who’s laughing?’ while delivering his speech

Despite Mr Anderson’s best attempts to seem calm and collected, the former Conservative party deputy chairman looked visibly irritated when he first took to the podium.

During his opening remarks, Mr Anderson interrupted himself to ask “who’s laughing?” at the crowd of journalists.

As he continued, Mr Anderson then accused The Sun’s Mr Cole of laughing at him.

He asked: “Is that you, Harry, laughing?”

5) Wishing his mum a ‘happy Mother’s Day’

The MP for Ashfield wished his mum a “happy Mother’s Day” after he was asked if he had just “made it harder” for former Conservative colleagues to hang on to their seats.

Asked by political editor for 5 News Andy Bell if he had “helped Keir Starmer win the next election”, Mr Anderson replied: “I have to live with my conscience. My conscience is clear.

“When I got to see my parents yesterday on Mother's Day – Happy Mother's Day, mother – and they say to me ‘you need to join Reform, this country needs saving. We’re absolutely fed up of what's happening on the streets of London, we’re fed up of what’s happening up and down the country. We’re just fed up, we need change’.

“When my parents are saying that then I personally sleep well”.

Lee Anderson accused the crowd of laughing at him as he gave his first speech as a Reform UK MP (AFP via Getty Images)
Lee Anderson accused the crowd of laughing at him as he gave his first speech as a Reform UK MP (AFP via Getty Images)

6) Suggesting politicians are ‘as untrustworthy’ as journalists

When asked by a Telegraph journalist about his previous statement that there was “no conceivable world” in which he would join Reform UK and – in his words – “knife the Tories in the back”, Mr Anderson insisted that there had been “no turning point” but that “sometimes” politicians are “as trustworthy as journalists in what they say and do.”

The former Conservative Party deputy chairman went on to say there had in fact been “several tipping points” that led to his decision to defect to the party and that he had done “a lot of soul-searching” to come to the decision.

He said: “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 you know, where I am, what I'm what I'm doing, and when I find myself suspended, having the whip 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 is unpalatable”.