Who is ‘30p Lee’ Anderson? The Tory MP made Deputy Chairman of the Conservative party in Rishi Sunak reshuffle

Lee Anderson has been criticised for his “crass and cruel” comments on food banks, with Labour branding the remarks “beyond belief”

Lee Anderson has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in a mini Cabinet reshuffle.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak handed the senior position to Anderson, the MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire and a former miner, last week, making him deputy to new Tory chairman Greg Hands.

It follows Nadhim Zahawi being sacked last month as Party Chairman after he was found to have breached the Ministerial Code in relation to his tax affairs. Anderson retweeted the announcement from the official Conservative Twitter account, saying: “Yes it’s true. From the pits to Parliament. Feeling very proud.”

The 56-year-old is no stranger to controversy during his three years in Westminster and has attracted controversy for criticising England footballers for taking the knee and saying food bank users “cannot budget”, while most recently he said he would support the return of the death penalty because “nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed”.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Deputy Chairman.

Lee Anderson has been criticised for his ‘crass’ comments on food banks (Photo: UK Parliament)Lee Anderson has been criticised for his ‘crass’ comments on food banks (Photo: UK Parliament)
Lee Anderson has been criticised for his ‘crass’ comments on food banks (Photo: UK Parliament)

Who is Lee Anderson?

Anderson is a Conservative politician who has been the MP for Ashfield since December 2019. He is a former Labour member, having represented the party as an Ashfield District councillor until his suspension in February 2018. He defected to the Tories a month later, blaming a “takeover” of Labour by the “hard-left” under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Brexit supporter snatched the Ashfield seat from Labour in the 2019 election as part of Boris Johnson’s crushing of Mr Corbyn’s outfit in so-called “red wall” constituencies — traditionally the heartland of Labour support in the Midlands, North of England and Wales.

What did he say about food banks?

Anderson, who earns £84,144 a year as an MP, said there is not “this massive use for food banks” in the UK, but “generation after generation who cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.

During a Commons speech in May last year, he suggested that people in the UK use food banks because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”, adding that people coming to collect a food parcel in his constituency were being shown how to cook meals for “about 30 pence a day”.

His “crass and cruel” comments, which were in response to a question asked by a Labour MP about the necessity of food banks in 21st century Britain, came during the second day of the Queen’s Speech debate in the Commons and have been harshly criticised.

The MP hit back over the reporting of his comments, writing on Facebook at the time: “Gutter Press Again. I did not say poor people cannot cook or there is no need for food banks. I said there is not the need currently being parrotted out by the MSM (mainstream media).

“Today I challenged the whole Parliamentary Labour Party to come to Ashfield to visit the food bank I work with. They give food parcels away on the condition they enrole for cooking and budgeting lessons. I have done several events at the foodbank where we batch cooked food on a budget. My offer stands. Come to Ashfield.”

Anderson was backed by fellow Tory MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley, who said there is a problem with “basic education” and numeracy skills.

Labour branded the MP’s comments “beyond belief”, with the Liberal Democrats saying his remarks were “disgraceful” and “an insult to millions of hard-working people”.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the comments highlight how “out of touch” Tory MPs and ministers are with the current cost-of-living crisis affecting families across the UK.

Meanwhile, SNP MP Joanna Cherry, for Edinburgh South West, the subsequent speaker in the Commons debate, told Anderson that people do not use food banks because they do not know how to cook, but because “we have poverty in this country at a scale that should shame his government”.

Shadow work and pensions minister Karen Buck said: “In the world where people actually live, we now hear daily stories of families going without food and others unable to turn their ovens on in fear of rising energy bills.

“The idea that the problem is cooking skills and not 12 years of government decisions that are pushing people into extreme poverty is beyond belief. Out of touch doesn’t even cover it.”

What other controversial comments has he made?

In 2021, when the men’s Euro 2020 football tournament was taking place, Anderson vowed to boycott England matches in protest at the players’ anti-racism stance of taking the knee before matches. Even when Gareth Southgate’s team got to the final, the Tory MP said he would not tune in, although he admitted he might check the score on his phone. In a video on Facebook in July that year, he said “I don’t like the taking the knee business” because it was associated with the Black Lives Matter political movement.

During his winning election campaign in 2019, he was criticised for suggesting “nuisance tenants” living on a council estate should be evicted into tents in a field to pick vegetables.

The outspoken MP also said this month that he would support the UK reintroducing the death penalty and suggested using Royal Navy frigates to return to France those arriving in small boats across the English Channel.

Sunak chose Anderson as deputy chairman despite the MP apparently criticising the government’s approach to unlawful immigration. In messages reportedly leaked from a WhatsApp group, he is said to have stated that ministers were acting “like the band on the Titanic”.

The alleged comments came after a Sunday Express front page story claimed Whitehall officials were trying to “scupper” the Prime Minister’s plans to tackle small boats crossing the Channel.

Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South, tweeted in response to his appointment: “Lee Anderson MP has just been made deputy chair of the Conservative Party. He boycotted the England team because they took the knee and said people in poverty ‘cannot budget’ and should cook 30p meals. That sound you can hear? It’s the Conservatives scraping the barrel.”

How much does Anderson claim on expenses?

Anderson claimed almost £222,000 in business expenses one year, including £4,100 on travel and ‘subsistence’

The MP claimed £219,703.44 as business costs from 2020 to 2021, bringing his office, staffing, accommodation, travel and subsistence claims higher than the average £203,880 claimed by MPs.

His biggest expense was on staffing at £165,215.27, followed by £33,144.30 on office costs and £17,650.60 on accommodation, while a further £67.57 was spent on hospitality.