'30p Lee': All Lee Anderson's Most Controversial Moments

The former Tory deputy chairman, who claimed Islamists had “got control” of London, has outspoken views on food banks and migrants.
Lee Anderson speaks at the launch of the Popular Conservatives movement in February.
Lee Anderson speaks at the launch of the Popular Conservatives movement in February.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has been put on the defensive by comments made by Lee Anderson, who claimed the mayor of London Sadiq Khan is controlled by Islamists.

The Tory party’s former deputy chairman had said the Labour mayor has “given our capital city away to his mates”, and “Islamists” had “got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London”.

Anderson was suspended from the Conservative Party group in parliament after he made the comments – but the prime minister has since insisted that while the comments were “wrong”, Anderson is not “a racist person or an Islamophobic person”.

In February last year, the PM appointed Anderson to the senior party role as part of his mini-reshuffle – with Sunak seemingly thinking the straight-talking “everyman” schtick could help save tanking Tory poll ratings.

The Ashfield MP already has a history of making controversial statements – he has argued food bank users “cannot budget” and criticised England footballers for taking the knee. Last summer he said migrants should “fuck off back to France”.

Elected to parliament in 2019, Anderson is a former coal miner who was a Labour councillor in Ashfield before he defected to the Conservative Party and went on to serve as a Tory councillor in Mansfield.

The influential political website Conservative Home has described him as having “blunt views” on Brexit, travellers and poverty – and here’s a selection of them, which are perhaps best viewed against Sunak promising to govern with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”.

“Fuck off back to France”

The MP made the comments after lawyers acting for asylum seekers launched a legal action to prevent them being put onto the Bibby Stockholm vessel. Around 15 men finally boarded the barge after long delays, but 20 objected to being removed from hotels to live there.

Anderson told the Daily Express: “If they don’t like barges then they should fuck off back to France.”

Perhaps more surprising was the government making little attempt to distance itself from the language.

During an interview on Radio Four’s Today programme, justice secretary Alex Chalk was quizzed by presenter Nick Robinson on whether Anderson was speaking on behalf of the Tory Party.

Chalk eventually insisted he had “no difficulty” with what Anderson had said. “It’s not bigotry at all,” he said. “This country has offered its home to 400,000 people since 2015 – Ukrainians, people from Hong Kong, Afghans.”

Later, No 10 said the justice secretary was speaking for the government in backing Anderson.

The BBC a “safe haven for perverts”

At the height of the speculation around allegations surrounding an unnamed BBC presenter, Anderson claimed the BBC was a “safe haven for perverts”.

“The BBC have given us a whole raft of perverts including Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Stuart Hall. Why is anyone shocked?” he told the Daily Express.

“It’s time this taxpayer-funded safe haven for perverts was made a subscription service.”

Asked if Sunak agreed with the deputy chair of his party, the prime minister’s spokesperson said at the time: “The BBC is a vital institution much cherished by the British public and continues to do vital and important work.

“It is important they establish the facts and act appropriately.”

Huw Edwards was later named by his wife as the BBC presenter who had been at the centre of allegations made in The Sun, as questions were asked about the reporting.

Vicky Flind, the wife of the news reader, issued a statement issued on his behalf, and said he was was “suffering from serious mental health issues” as she asked for privacy for her family.

“30p Lee” and his multiple takes on food banks

Anderson was branded “30p Lee” after his magnus opus opinion – claiming food banks are not really necessary because people can cook meals for 30p a day. He’s returned to food banks repeatedly.

Anderson told parliament in May last year that “you’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly. They can’t cook a meal from scratch. They cannot budget.”

Addressing MPs on the Opposition benches, he urged them to “come to Ashfield and work with me for a day in my food bank”.

“What we do in the food bank, we show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget,” he added. “We can make a meal for about 30 pence a day. And this is cooking from scratch.”

Anderson revived the riff in January by posting a picture – two, in fact – that highlighted Tesco own brand “wheat biscuits”. “Just been asked for proof of a 30p breakfast. There you go,” he wrote, as others pointed out issues to do with nutrition (among others).

He later told Express.co.uk: “If my wife and I can have breakfast for less than 30p each then I am fairly sure that other people can especially if they are on a budget. I just don’t understand why the left are attacking for stating how much a breakfast costs.”

Nurses shouldn’t be relying on hand-outs

Anderson has also been critical of people earning more than £30,000 using food banks to get by during the cost of living crisis, and in particular claimed nurses needing charity had “something wrong” with their own finances.

Anderson, whose basic salary is £84,144, told Times Radio: “I heard some nonsense a few weeks back that nurses were actually stealing food off patients’ plates. I don’t believe it.

“Anybody earning 30 odd grand a year, which most nurses are, using food banks, then they’ve got something wrong with their own finances.”

Bizarre TV show

Since his rise to infamy, Anderson has been handed a TV show on the GB News channel, and is getting paid £100,000 a year for the gig.

In his debut programme, he fed cold bake beans to fellow Conservative MP Brendan Clarke-Smith.

Clarke-Smith, MP for Bassetlaw, had faced a backlash for suggesting hard-pressed families ditch branded goods and buy supermarket-own baked beans instead amid spiralling food inflation.

The controversy prompted Anderson to give Clarke-Smith a test taste – and spoon the beans into his colleague’s mouth. “Here comes the train,” warned Anderson ahead of the first mouthful. Clarke-Smith noted they were “cold”.

On another show, the MP tried to make a guest eat cat food.

“Katy makes my point really well”

Before taking up the deputy chair role, Anderson was accused of using a member of staff as a “political football” after he tweeted about her financial situation to make yet another point about food banks.

The MP for Ashfield shared a photograph of a woman in his office called Katy to make a point about food bank use in Britain.

He wrote: “Katy works for me. She is single and earns less than 30k, rents a room for £775pcm in Central London, has student debt, £120 a month on travelling to work saves money every month, goes on foreign holidays and does not need to use a food bank. Katy makes my point really well.”

The comment prompted fierce criticism from other MPs including Lib Dem Jamie Stone who said: “I have never, and would never, use my staff as a political football.

“This is in seriously bad taste and is an awful way to admit that you don’t pay your staff enough.”

Caught faking doorstep chat

Beyond food banks, and before he was elected, Anderson has always, it appears, done things ... differently.

In 2019, journalist Michael Crick caught him getting one of his friends to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter. Anderson forgot he was wearing a live mic while he phoned his friend to set up the encounter to impress the reporter.

“Make out you know who I am... you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?,” Anderson was recorded saying as he spelled out instructions to his friend minutes before bringing the journalist to his door.

“Nuisance” tenants to live in tents

Also when he was a candidate, Anderson proposed forcing anti-social council tenants to live in tents and pick vegetables.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, he said certain “nuisance tenants” on a housing estate were “making people’s lives a complete misery”.

He then said: “These people, who have to live somewhere, 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 other seasonal vegetables, back in the tent, cold shower, lights out, six o’clock, same again the next day.”

Criticised footballers for taking the knee

In 2021, when the men’s Euro 2020 football tournament was taking place, he 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, Anderson 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, Anderson said “I don’t like the taking the knee business” because it was associated with the Black Lives Matter political movement.

The Anderson interviews

Anderon has frequently tussled with the media, with varying degrees of success. But they at least marked him out as a loyalist.

Last year, Anderson engaged in some wordplay to explain why then-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s 45p tax u-turn was not actually a u-turn, just “a change in direction”.

When interviewed again during his party’s conference, he blamed a “long few days” for confusing then-prime minister Liz Truss leader with one of her predecessors, Theresa May.

He first hit out at the “gutter press” for its negative portrayal of the event, and then praised Truss for a “pretty good” address, and how she “gets better and better every time I see her”.

He went on: “We had Brexit, we had Boris, we had Corbyn three years ago and now we’ve got Theresa May it’s a different ball game altogether.”

On another channel, Anderson claimed the BBC was leading a “witch hunt” against Boris Johnson and that it was “time you got off his back”. At the time, 148 Tory MPs wanted Johnson out after he had been fined by the police for breaking the lockdown rules he set, and Sue Gray’s partygate report painted a debauched picture of booze-fuelled lockdown partying across Whitehall.

In a terse interview live on the BBC News, Anderson told the broadcaster: “What people see is a witch hunt, led by the BBC and the Labour Party. The BBC has had it in for Boris since day one.”

Despite protestations from the interviewer (“our job is to ask questions of all politicians”), Anderson continued: “My inbox is full of people complaining about the BBC all the time, saying it should be defunded. There’s a massive witch hunt by you, and the Labour Party, and the mainstream media.”

The ’Spoons economic bellwether

At the Tory conference last year, Anderson suggested the UK economy – which is predicted to slip into recession – was doing just fine. His benchmark? People are still go to Wetherspoons.

“Go in any Wetherspoons, that’s the barometer of how this country is doing, when Wetherspoons is empty we’ve got a big problem,” he said in Birmingham.

He then accused the media of fearmongering, telling an audience of young Tories: “Whenever we put the TV on people are telling us how poor we are.”

Clashes with Steve “Stop Brexit” Bray

Another thread that runs through Anderson’s parliamentary career is his clashes with Steve Bray, a notorious Westminster figure who uses a megaphone to bellow “Stop Brexit” within earshot of MPs.

During their latest clash, Anderson was asked by Bray: “How are the subsidised meals going Lee? Looks like you’re benefiting from them.”

Anderson replied: “It’s a new year, but you’ve not got a new job yet. Same old job. You’re still a parasite. You’re still a scrounger and you’re still a malingerer.”

He then stole Bray’s hat.

Anderson later challenged Bray to a boxing match, telling Chopper’s Politics podcast: “He’s a nuisance, and I’ve got a challenge for him.

“Meet me in the boxing ring, let’s do three rounds, and if I win, he never protests out there again.”


What's Hot