Who is Lee Anderson? MP and Tory Party Deputy Chairman who said migrants should ‘f*** off back to France’

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Here are all of Lee Anderson’s controversies: from claiming food bank users “cannot budget” to telling migrants to “f*** off back to France”

Tory Party Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson is making headlines after arguing that migrants who “don’t like barges” should “f*** off back to France”.

The MP claimed that those unhappy with conditions for asylum seekers in the UK should leave - “or better, not come at all” - after 20 migrants sent to the Bibby Stockhom barge on Monday (7 August) were granted a last-minute reprieve and did not have to board the vessel. According to refugee charity Care4Calais, the group’s transfers from hotels were “cancelled” after lawyers challenged the decision.

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Anderson’s comments, which he has since refused to apologise for, sparked a huge backlash - with some people accusing him of being a “fascist”. But the government defended the Ashfield MP’s position, with Justice Secretary Alex Chalk claiming that his “indignation” was well placed.

When asked if Anderson’s perspective represented the government, a spokesperson for Number 10 told Sky News: “The Justice Secretary was speaking on behalf of the government. That is the response.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time Anderson has been involved with controversy. He’s been in the news a fair deal before - over comments on a range of topics, from food banks and the death penalty to racism in football. So who exactly is this outspoken MP, and what has he said in the past? Here’s everything you need to know about Lee Anderson.

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) | UK Parliament

Who is Lee Anderson?

Lee Anderson, 56, is the Tory MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, and the current Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party - a position he was appointed to by current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

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He became the Ashfield MP in December 2019 as part of Boris Johnson’s crushing of Labour’s so-called “red wall” constituencies - traditionally the heartland of Labour support in the Midlands, North of England and Wales.

Before this, Anderson was actually a Labour member himself - 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.

What did he say about asylum seekers?

The Tory Deputy Chairman sparked controversy when he told the Express on Monday (7 August): “If [migrants] don’t like barges, then they should f*** off back to France.”

He continued: “I think people have just had enough. These people come across the Channel in small boats... if they don’t like the conditions they are housed in here, then they should go back to France - or better, not come at all in the first place.”

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When asked by Nigel Farage on his GB News show on Tuesday (8 August) whether he would apologise for the comments, Anderson replied: “No.” When questioned about whether his use of the “f-word” was in bad taste, Anderson continued: “No. It’s borne out of frustration. It’s borne out of me being absolutely furious. It’s not just me that’s being furious. It’s my constituents and millions of people up and down the country.”

Anderson added it makes him feel “sick” every time a boat carrying migrants crosses the Channel and it makes him “furious” when asylum seekers are housed in hotels and on barges. He said: “I’ve been to Calais, I’ve seen these migrants living in one-man tents - living in absolute squalor.

“Then they get here, we do our best, we bend over backwards to put them in decent accommodation, and all of a sudden they get a choice.”

The MP was subsequently asked whether the Conservative Party government had failed to tackle illegal immigration effectively, to which he admitted: “We have failed on this, there’s no doubt about it. We said we’re going to fix it, it is a failure.

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“But,” he continued, “we have got policies in place. I know it’s a bit hard for the British public at the moment to understand what we’re trying to do with the Rwanda flights, and the change in legislation, the Illegal Migration Bill.

“It seems very slow and cumbersome - we’re up against it, we’ve got the lefty lawyers, the human rights campaigners, we’ve got the charities, everything’s against us. I’m not making excuses, but it’s slowing us down. If we had the whole of Parliament behind us, I’m sure this would have got through by now.”

What did he say about food banks?

Anderson, who earns £84,144 a year as an MP, sparked backlash when he suggested that those who need to use foodbanks were only doing so because they could not budget or cook properly.

He invited fellow MPs to visit a food bank in his constituency, which he said was running a “brilliant scheme” whereby those in receipt of food parcels are forced to “register for a budgeting and cooking course”. He explained: “We show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget. We can make a meal for about 30p a day – and this is cooking from scratch.

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“I think you’ll see first-hand there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country. We’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch, they cannot budget.”

Anderson later widened his remarks to include nurses, who were striking over pay, conditions, and staff shortages at the time. He told Times Radio: “Anybody earning 30-odd grand a year – which most nurses are – using food banks, then they’ve got something wrong with their own finances.”

Lee Anderson MP speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday 19 July, 2023. Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA WireLee Anderson MP speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday 19 July, 2023. Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire
Lee Anderson MP speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday 19 July, 2023. Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire | PA Wire

The MP’s remarks were widely criticised as “crass and cruel”, with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) claiming his comments highlight how “out of touch” Tories and ministers are with the current cost of living crisis affecting families across the UK.

Meanwhile, Labour’s work and pensions minister Karen Buck added: “In the world where people actually live, we 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.”

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But Anderson hit back, writing on Facebook: “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 that they enroll 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.”

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

What did he say about racism in football?

In 2021, when the men’s Euro 2020 football tournament was taking place, Anderson vowed to boycott England matches in protest pf players ‘taking the knee’ before matches - which was used as an anti-racism stance.

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Even when the team 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 explained that he didn’t like the “taking the knee business” because it was associated with the Black Lives Matter political movement.

What did he say about the death penalty?

In an interview with The Spectator back in February, a few days before Sunak appointed him to the role of Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Anderson said he would back the return of capital punishment.

Asked whether he would support the return of the death penalty, Mr Anderson told the magazine: “Yes.” He added: “Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100% success rate.”

He continued: “I’d be very careful, 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.”

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Has he made any other controversial comments?

Anderson was also criticised before he even made it to Parliament when in 2019, during his election campaign, he argued that “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents and pick potatoes or vegetables.

In a video posted to Facebook, he said: “My plan would be: let’s have them in a tent in the middle of a field, six o’clock every morning, let’s have them up, let’s have them in the field picking potatoes or any current seasonal vegetables - [then] back in the tent, cold shower, lights out, six o’clock, same again the next day. That would be my solution.”

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