'Entirely Predictable': Tory MPs Condemn Rishi Sunak Over Lee Anderson Defection

The prime minister hand-picked the Ashfield MP to be one of the Conservatives' deputy chairmen.
Rishi Sunak and Lee Anderson visiting a school in January, when he was still a deputy chair of the Tory Party.
Rishi Sunak and Lee Anderson visiting a school in January, when he was still a deputy chair of the Tory Party.
Pool via Getty Images

Tory MPs have condemned Rishi Sunak after Lee Anderson defected to Reform UK.

The former Conservative deputy chair said he was switching to the right-wing party because “I want my country back”.

The move, which comes just weeks after he was suspended by the Conservatives over comments he made about Sadiq Khan, is yet another blow to the prime minister.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Lee himself said he fully accepted that the chief whip had no option but to suspend the whip in these circumstances.

“We regret he’s made this decision. Voting for Reform can’t deliver anything apart from a Keir Starmer-led Labour government that would take us back to square one.”

But Tory MPs laid the blame for the controversy at Sunak’s door after he hand-picked Anderson to be one of the party’s deputy chairs a year ago.

One told HuffPost UK: “It was entirely predictable, but maybe all the clever people in No.10 don’t do predictions.”

Another senior backbencher said: “Lee Anderson is a man of limited choices going to the party he always should have been in.”

A Tory aide added: “This is bad for Sunak - he literally gave Anderson to Reform.”

Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates, co-chairs of the New Conservatives, also took aim at Sunak following Anderson’s defection.

In a series of posts on X, they took a swipe at the PM’s often-repeated soundbite that his “plan is working”.

“Our poll numbers show what the public think of our record since 2019,” they said. “We cannot pretend any longer that ‘the plan is working’. We need to change course urgently.”

Within minutes of news of Anderson’s imminent defection being revealed this morning, he was removed from Tory WhatsApp groups.

However, MP James Sutherland hinted at the discontent within the party by apologising to his colleagues for doing so.

Pat McFadden Labour’s national campaign chief, 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.”

Anderson’s defection comes as support for the Tories continues to fall at the same time as Reform’s poll numbers are rising.

At this morning’s press conference announcing his defection, Reform leader Richard Tice said he would be “surprised” if more MPs did not join his party before the election.

Anderson said: “Over the last year or so I have done a lot of soul searching on my political journey. I don’t expect much in politics other than to be able to speak my mind and to be able to speak on behalf of my friends and family and some of my constituents.

“My opinions are not controversial, these are opinions shared by millions up and down the country.

“It is no secret that I’ve been talking to my friends in Reform for a while. And Reform UK has offered me the chance to speak out in Parliament on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who feel that they’re not being listened to.”


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