Who is Lee Anderson and why do some people dislike him?

The Tory MP has stoked controversy with comments about the death penalty, food banks and Black Lives Matter.

Lee Anderson, Member of Parliament for Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. 19th January 2023.
Lee Anderson is MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire. (PA/Alamy)

In just a few short days since being promoted to deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson has already caused quite a stir.

In the past 24 hours, the Tory MP has batted away criticism over a recent interview with the Spectator in which he expressed his support for bringing back the death penalty.

He also had a heated exchange with a BBC Radio Nottingham presenter over accusations he was "dishonest" by asking a friend to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter to boost his election campaign in 2019.

Even before this week, Anderson was no stranger to controversy, having suggested last year that people who use food banks "cannot budget" or cook properly.

Despite attracting so many negative headlines, Anderson is believed to be popular among Conservative Party members – he was even voted "Backbencher of the Year" on the ConservativeHome website in 2022.

Nonetheless, the new deputy chairman is without a doubt a divisive figure. Yahoo News takes a look at Anderson's most marmite moments.

Who is Tory MP Lee Anderson?

Lee Anderson MP cleans graffiti from the statue of Winston Churchill at Parliament Square, in the aftermath of protests against the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 8, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
Anderson cleans graffiti from the statue of Winston Churchill at Parliament Square in the aftermath of protests against the death of George Floyd. (Reuters)

Before entering the world of Westminster, Anderson worked as a coal miner for 10 years before volunteering for Citizens Advice for another decade.

He previously served as a Labour councillor for Ashfield District Council, Nottinghamshire, before defecting to the Conservative Party in March 2018 over what he called a takeover by the "hard-left".

Anderson had been suspended by his local Labour branch the previous month after receiving a community protection order for hiring a digger to put concrete blocks in a car park entrance to prevent Travellers "setting up camp".

Read more: When was the death penalty last used in the UK?

In 2019 he was elected as the first Tory MP for Mansfield since the 1977 by-election, which overlapped with his time as a member of Mansfield District Council from 2019 to 2021.

The "Red Wall" MP has remained popular among grassroots Tory members, and despite his controversies, his appointment to deputy chairman on Tuesday suggests he could progress further within the party.

He is married to Sinead, 45, and has two grown-up sons, Charlie and Harry.

Anderson has previously described his wife as his "driving force" and the reason he became an MP. She was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 18 and told she would not see her 30th birthday. She has since had a double lung transplant and, according to Anderson, "is pushing for her 50th".

Why is he nicknamed '30p Lee?'

Workers at The Halo Centre, the central distribution point for donated items to be distributed to the Coventry Foodbank network of 14 sites across the city, collates food items into parcels that will be provided to people with a foodbank voucher, in Coventry, central England on January 23, 2023. - In Coventry, a city once home to a thriving car manufacturing industry, the
Anderson was slammed as 'out of touch' over his comments on food banks. (Getty Images)

Anderson picked up the nickname "30p Lee" after controversially claiming that struggling families should be able to prepare meals for just 30 pence.

Speaking to the House of Commons in May 2022, he said that “generation after generation” of people “cannot budget” or make meals properly.

He was slammed as "tone deaf" and insensitive towards families struggling to make ends meet, but he stood his ground and refused to retract his comments.

'You're a liar, Verity'

Lee Anderson on Mail Plus 2019
Lee Anderson was overheard pre-arranging a chat with a friend during his 2019 campaign trail. (Mail Plus)

Things got a bit heated on BBC Radio Nottingham on Wednesday after Anderson was challenged over the time he was caught getting a friend to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter while standing for parliament.

He forgot he was wearing a microphone and was overheard by production staff at Mail+ telling his friend on the phone: “Make out you know who I am... you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?”

After presenter Verity Cowley suggested the 2019 gaffe could raise concerns about dishonesty, Anderson became very defensive, asking the presenter 10 times if she had ever lied.

Read more: What happened at Epsom College?

When Cowley accepted that people sometimes tell falsehoods to protect people, he replied: "So you're a liar, so you're dishonest... We've established you're dishonest and you tell lies.

You can listen to the exchange below:

What did he say about the death penalty?

ONE EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVING. NO ALTERING OR MANIPULATING. NO USE ON SOCIAL MEDIA UNLESS AGREED BY HOC PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICE. MANDATORY CREDIT: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Lee Anderson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday November 16, 2022.
The MP for Ashfield has recently come out in favour of the death penalty. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

In an interview with the Spectator before his latest appointment, Anderson came out in support of execution as a punishment for some crimes.

He told the right-wing magazine: "Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100 per cent success rate."

Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper said his "daft comments" show why he should never have been given his job in the first place, and prime minister Rishi Sunak has distanced himself from the remarks.

Anderson has remained typically unrepentant, however, later telling TalkTV that it is "difficult to argue against" execution as a punishment in some murder cases – such as the 2013 killing of soldier Lee Rigby.

Boycotted England

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Semi Final - England v Denmark - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - July 7, 2021 England players take the knee before the match Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffiths
During the Euro 2020 tournament Anderson said he would boycott England matches over players taking the knee. (Reuters)

During the Euro 2020 men's tournament Anderson attracted yet more controversy when he said he said he would boycott England games over players taking the knee.

He said footballers making the anti-racism gesture before kick-off was "not the way" as it supported Black Lives Matter, which he called a political movement "whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life".

Anderson was criticised for his "one-man boycott", to which he replied: "That's my decision, I'm not forcing my views on anybody else."

What is his voting record?

ONE EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVING. NO ALTERING OR MANIPULATING. NO USE ON SOCIAL MEDIA UNLESS AGREED BY HOC PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICE. MANDATORY CREDIT: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Lee Anderson, Conservative MP for Ashfield speaking during a Covid-19 update by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock in the House of Commons, London.
Anderson has consistently voted for tougher immigration and asylum rules. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Anderson may have started his political career in the Labour Party, but his record in parliament shows him as voting the same way as other Tory MPs on the majority of issues.

He has consistently voted against reducing corporation tax and against measures to reduce tax avoidance, according to They Work For You, a website that keeps track of MPs' activities in parliament.

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The 56-year-old MP has generally backed a stronger asylum system and stronger enforcement of immigration rules, and has voted against a right to remain for EU nationals already living in the UK.

For many of his votes, Anderson will have been subject to the party whip system, which sees MPs instructed to vote along party lines.