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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Lee Anderson Joins Reform After Conservative Party Suspension

Lee Anderson was suspended from the Conservative party in February. (Alamy)

4 min read

Lee Anderson has announced he is joining the Reform party after he was suspended from the Conservative party last month for suggesting London mayor Sadiq Khan was being controlled by "Islamists".

Anderson told a press conference he’d been talking to Reform “for a while” about joining the party and that in recent days he had received 4,000 emails from people across the country urging him to do so.

He said "friends, family and staff" had encouraged him to leave the Tories for Richard Tice's right-wing party, and that his parents had said they could not vote for him as a Conservative MP.

Anderson said that on Mother's Day his parents told him: "Lee, you need to join Reform, this country needs saving."

Anderson becomes Reform's first MP in the House of Commons, where he will sit on the opposition benches. His message to the Conservative MPs he'd left behind to join Reform was "country, constituency, then party”.

However, the MP for Ashfield said he would not trigger a by-election in his constituency, arguing that it would be "reckless" to do so when there could be a general election as soon as May.

The controversial former deputy chairman of the Conservatives was suspended from the party in February after he suggested that "Islamists" had "got control” of both London Mayor Khan and of capital. 

“I don’t actually believe that these Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is that they’ve got control of Khan, they’ve got control of London," Anderson told GB News during an interview. 

“He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates... If you let Labour in through the back door, expect more of this, expect our cities to be taken over by these lunatics.”

Following furious backlash and allegations of Islamophobia, with Tory MPs complaining to Number 10 en masse over Anderson's remarks, Anderson refused to apologise - instead referring to his remarks as "clumsy". A number of senior Tory figures condemned Anderson's remarks including ex-Cabinet minister Sajid Javid and the party's former leader in Scotland Ruth Davidson.

It was subsequently announced Anderson would be suspended from the party after he failed to apologise. 

"Lee's comments weren't acceptable, they were wrong," prime minister Rishi Sunak told the BBC in February.

"That's why he's had the whip suspended."

Anderson doubled down on these remarks at a press conference in Westminster, telling reporters that he would not apologise.

Anderson's new party Reform, founded by Nigel Farage and formerly known as the Brexit party, is a source of growing concern for Conservative MPs concerned it could hoover up disaffected Tory voters at the next election.  

In January, PoliticsHome reported Reform had set up a defections unit for Conservatives considering joining the party as it seeks to attract disgruntled Tory party MPs and councillors. 

Speaking alongside Anderson at a press conference in Westminster on Monday morning, leader Tice said he would be "surprised" if more MPs from other political parties didn't defect to Reform before the next general election, which is currently expected to take place in the Autumn.

Tice and other Reform figures like deputy leader Ben Habib have repeatedly stated they want to help bring about a crushing defeat for the Conservatives when the next election takes place.

Anderson this morning told PoliticsHome that obliterating the Tory party was not at the "top" of his agenda, but did accuse his former party of breaking promises to voters like his constiuents. 

"My vision for this party is to win seats like Ashfield. Places that I think have been let down by my own party," he said in response to a question from this publication.

The MP dismissed suggestions that the fact he has been part of three political parties in recent years (he was a Labour member before joining the Conservatives) meant he couldn't be trusted.

"My political beliefs have never changed at all," he told reporters. 

"I believe politics is quite simple: you listen to what people have to say, you go to that place and carry it out. It's that simple. And we are not doing that.

"This party will allow me to not just speak on behalf of my constituents who are furious with what's happening in that place, but millions of people up and down the country."

Pat McFadden MP, Labour's campaign coordinator, said: “What does it say about Rishi Sunak's judgement that he promoted Lee Anderson in the first place?

“The truth is that the Prime Minister is too weak to lead a party too extreme to be led, and if the Tories got another five years it would all just get worse."

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