The newly appointed Tory party deputy chairman has said he would support the return of the death penalty.
Outspoken Ashfield MP Lee Anderson was handed the senior government position by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during Tuesday’s reshuffle.
The move raised eyebrows due to Anderson’s history of controversial remarks, including his criticism of food bank users last year when he said people “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”. He has also criticised England football players for taking the knee in protest at racism.
In an interview with The Spectator magazine a few days before his appointment, Anderson - former Labour councillor before converting to the Tories - said he would support the UK reintroducing the death penalty because “nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed”. The MP also suggested using Royal Navy frigates to return to France those arriving in small boats across the English Channel.
Asked whether he would support the return of capital punishment, he told the weekly magazine: “Yes. Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100% success rate.”
The death penalty for murder in the UK was outlawed permanently in 1969 and was totally abolished for all crimes in 1998. The last people executed in Britain were Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans on 13 August 1964.
The UK has signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which prohibits the restoration of the death penalty. But Anderson argued that heinous crimes — such as the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 by Islamist extremists Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale — where the perpetrators are clearly identifiable should be punished by execution.
Adebolajo was given a whole-life term and Adebowale was jailed for a minimum of 45 years for running over and stabbing the British Army soldier in south-east London in broad daylight.
Anderson told the magazine: “Now I’d be very careful on that one (the return of the death penalty) because you’ll get the certain groups saying: ‘You can never prove it’. Well, you can prove it if they have videoed it and are on camera – like the Lee Rigby killers. I mean: they should have gone, same week. I don’t want to pay for these people.”
On the issue of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel — one of Sunak’s top five priorities — Anderson said migrants arriving unlawfully in Britain should be returned the “same day” to where they came from. He said that during a visit to Calais last month he met migrants referring to Britain as “El Dorado”.
“They are seeing a country where the streets are paved with gold – where, once you land, they are not in that manky little f****** scruffy tent,” Anderson said. “They are going to be in a four-star hotel. And they know that Serco is buying up houses everywhere, to put them in for the next five years. Why wouldn’t you come?”
Asked for his solution, he replied: “I’d send them straight back the same day. I’d put them on a Royal Navy frigate or whatever and sail it to Calais, have a stand-off. And they’d just stop coming.”
The former miner said, despite facing criticism in some quarters for his opinions, he found voters often agreed with him, adding: “If I say something that is supposedly outrageous in that place [the Commons], I get back to Ashfield on a Thursday, people will come out the shops and say, ‘You say what I’m thinking’.
“Maybe some of my colleagues think I’m a little bit too divisive. But I’m of the mind that half the population will hate you, whatever colour you wear.”
An expert on the views of political party members pointed out that many Tories would agree with Anderson’s views on the death penalty. Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary University of London said he was “almost certainly speaking for the majority of Conservatives”.
A survey of 1,191 members carried out as part of his work on party membership after the 2019 election found 53% agreed that “for some crimes, the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence”.
Sunak’s press secretary on Wednesday (8 February) said Anderson “will do a fantastic job working with the new chairman to champion the Conservative Party”, while stressing that “he’s not a member of the Conservative government”.