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Tory MP Lee Anderson did not vote against Rwanda bill because Labour MPs ‘giggled’ at him

Lee Anderson has said he could not vote against Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill because Labour MPs were “giggling” at him.

The ex-Tory deputy chairman, who quit on Tuesday in order to rebel over the policy, said opposition MPs were “giggling and laughing and taking the mick”, adding: “I couldn’t vote no”.

In an extraordinary interview with GB News, the top Tory said he had entered the “no” lobby, in order to reject Mr Sunak’s Safety of Rwanda bill. But after two or three minutes of being mocked, outspoken Mr Anderson walked out and abstained.

He said: “I was going to vote no. I went into the no lobby to vote no, because I couldn’t see how I could support the bill after backing all the amendments.

Conservative MP Lee Anderson stepped down as deputy Tory chairman to rebel over the Rwanda bill (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Conservative MP Lee Anderson stepped down as deputy Tory chairman to rebel over the Rwanda bill (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

“I got into the no lobby and I spent about two or three minutes with a colleague in there. The Labour lot were giggling and laughing and taking the mick and I couldn’t do it: In my heart of hearts, I couldn’t vote no.

“So I walked out and abstained.”

He quit his role as deputy Tory chairman on Tuesday night alongside Brendan Clarke-Smith, who held the same post, saying that he could not “carry on in my role when I fundamentally disagree with the bill”.

“I can’t be in a position to vote for something I don’t believe in,” Mr Anderson said.

His abstention came as an expected Tory rebellion fizzled out, with just 11 Tory MPs voting against the deportation bill, including former home secretary Suella Braverman and ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

MPs passed the embattled prime minister’s controversial deportation bill by 320 votes to 276, after most Conservative rebels “wimped out” of a threatened revolt.

The PM still faces a lengthy battle over the legislation in the House of Lords and the courts, however, as the government refused to say when flights to the African country might finally take off.

Rishi Sunak and Lee Anderson had been close in the days before Mr Anderson resigned as Tory deputy chairman (PA)
Rishi Sunak and Lee Anderson had been close in the days before Mr Anderson resigned as Tory deputy chairman (PA)

A close ally of Mr Sunak’s said it was inevitable that Tory right-wingers would “wimp out” of taking part in a revolt that could have triggered a general election, in which the party would be set to face a thumping from Labour.

Mr Anderson was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservatives in February 2023 in a move Mr Sunak hoped would help the Tories remain connected to Red Wall voters who backed the party in 2019.

His inability to put up with “giggling” Labour MPs is in contrast with his own propensity for making controversial comments.

The ex-Tory deputy chairman has said that people who use food banks cannot cook properly, and earned the nickname “30p Lee” for suggesting people can make meals for 30p a day.

And, before entering the House of Commons, Mr Anderson said “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents and pick potatoes.

He recently said asylum seekers arriving in the UK should be sent to the remote Scottish Orkney Islands - adding that they would be “perfect” for people fleeing persecution.