Rishi Sunak has backed Tory MP Lee Anderson as doing a “fantastic job” for his constituents, despite facing criticism for having a £100,000 second job as a GB News presenter.
The Prime Minister said on Thursday that the deputy Conservative Party chairman, who represents Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, has his “total support”.
Fellow Tory Caroline Nokes criticised her colleagues who are “swanning off” to present television shows while they have got a “day job to do”.
Her remarks came as she criticised GB News over its airing of “blatantly misogynistic, outdated, hideous attitudes” displayed by Dan Wootton and Laurence Fox.
Mr Sunak, taking part in a series of regional broadcast interviews ahead of the Tory party conference, faced questions from BBC East Midlands about Mr Anderson’s presenting gig.
The Prime Minister said there are rules in Parliament to ensure that “MPs are focused on their constituents and that we regulate exactly what they’re doing”.
“But Lee’s also doing a fantastic job representing his constituency,” he added.
“He’s helping me deliver for people to halve inflation to grow the economy, to reduce debt, to cut waiting lists, and importantly, to stop the boats. That’s what’s Lee’s getting on and helping us deliver nationally.
“Lee’s also helping me deliver a more realistic, pragmatic and sensible path to net zero that’s going to save families across the East Midlands thousands of pounds by not forcing them to do things that aren’t necessary.
“That’s what Lee’s doing. He’s got my total support, and that’s what we’re doing for people in the East Midlands.”
Mr Anderson, who hosts Lee Anderson’s Real World, has touted an “exclusive scoop” of an interview with Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a Tory colleague.
Ofcom has previously found that an interview married Tory MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies conducted with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on GB News breached impartiality rules.
Former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg’s show is also under investigation for allegedly twice breaching the “politicians as presenters” rule which means “no politician may be used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in any news programmes unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified”.
The register of MPs’ interests shows Mr Anderson earns £100,000 per year from GB News for eight hours work per week, on top of his £86,584 MP’s salary.
7pm tomorrow night 🖥📺 pic.twitter.com/rvtIBeUySD
— Lee Anderson MP (@LeeAndersonMP_) September 28, 2023
Earlier this month, Mr Anderson apologised after being found to have breached the Commons code of conduct by using one of its rooftops to film a promotional video for his show without authorisation.
Dame Melanie Dawes, chief executive of Ofcom, said Mr Anderson’s interview with Mrs Braverman could comply with the watchdog’s rules as long as it presented a balance of views during his programme on Friday.
She told BBC Radio 4’s PM: “The rules that Parliament set here are that, as long as he is not presenting the news and as long as the overall show — which I’m assuming will touch on matters of public policy but we will have to see — preserves due impartiality.
“That is the test that we apply to all programming. There is no difference for GB News and anyone else.
“But politicians may present programmes like that provided they follow those rules.”
Dame Melanie suggested other views would need to be aired during Mr Anderson’s programme, saying that was why the GB News interview with Mr Hunt had been in breach.
On Wednesday, Ms Nokes, the chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, said she thinks the relationship between some of her colleagues and GB News is “very odd”.
“From my perspective if you’re a Member of Parliament you have a day job to do, getting on with the work you have in the House of Commons and not swanning off, and in some cases several times a week, to present a show on a television channel,” she told BBC Newsnight.