Tory MP Anderson says Reform offered ‘guaranteed’ £80,000 salary if he defected

Conservative MP and Deputy Chair, Lee Anderson. Credit: PA

Lee Anderson has said he was offered a “guaranteed” job for five years on the same £80,000 salary as an MP if he defected to Reform UK. It comes after the Reform leader Richard Tice denied that any “cash or money” had been offered to Tory MPs to join the right-wing party. The Sunday Times reported that Mr Anderson, a Tory deputy chairman who has represented Ashfield since 2019, claimed in October that he was offered “a lot of money” to join the Nigel Farage-linked party. Mr Tice on Sunday rejected the claim, reportedly made by Mr Anderson at a South Cambridgeshire Conservative Association event last month.

“Let me make it absolutely clear, no cash or money has in any way been offered, what has been offered is the chance to change the shape of the debate,” Mr Tice told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme. According to the paper, which has obtained a recording, Mr Anderson told activists: “Now there is a political party that begins with an R that offered me a lot of money to join them. I say a lot of money, I mean a lot of money.” Mr Tice told the BBC: “I’m very happy to confirm that I’ve had numerous discussions with a number of Tory MPs, ministers, former ministers, who are absolutely furious with the complete betrayal of the Government’s promises, furious with the failure to stop the boats, furious with opening the borders to mass immigration. “What’s really happened here is that Lee Anderson has used the threat of defecting to Reform to negotiate himself the deputy chairmanship of the Tory party because this story first appeared almost exactly the same, in the time back in February when coincidentally, he was made deputy chairman of the Tory party.”

Reform UK leader Richard Tice leaving BBC Broadcasting House in London. Credit: PA

On Sunday night, Mr Anderson hit back at Mr Tice while also shedding light on a meeting he claims to have had with figures from Reform UK. He did not say when the meeting took place or who was involved. In a statement issued to GB News, he said: “From time to time politicians do meet other politicians from different political parties. “At one such meeting I was offered the chance to join another party for the following deal – I join within a few months and stand for this party at the next election. “If I lost my seat I would be guaranteed a job with the party for five years on the same salary as an MP. “To falsely claim that I used this as leverage to get the position of deputy chairman is an insult to me and my party.” A spokesman for Reform UK declined to comment on Mr Anderson’s statement.

Conservative Party Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson arrives at the National Conservatism Conference. Credit: PA

A high-profile MP, Mr Anderson has attracted criticism for a range of remarks on everything from food banks to illegal migration. Earlier this month, after the Supreme Court struck down the Government’s landmark Rwanda asylum plan, he suggested ministers should “ignore the law” and start sending asylum seekers to the east African nation. But he is a favourite of activists and MPs on the right of the party, keeping his post in Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle this month. In his statement, he said: “A year before I became deputy chairman I was touring the country speaking to members at different events and helping to raise campaign funds. “I accepted the role as deputy chairman for no extra pay and my travel expenses come out of my own pocket. This role means me staying at least one night a week away from home on top of the 3/4 nights I stay in London. “The benefit I get from being the deputy chairman is that I get to meet hundreds of members every month, as well as visiting so many different constituencies across our great country.” He said that Mr Tice needed “to look closer to home to see what his own senior members are saying and doing behind the scenes”. “He needs to keep better control of his party, otherwise incidents like this just make them look like amateur.” He added: “I would’ve hoped that, instead of taking to the airways to make wild accusations, Mr Tice would speak to me directly in private to check what happened.” It was reported by The Times, earlier this year, that Tory Chief Whip Simon Hart had reported Reform UK to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle over allegations that the party had offered MPs who defected a full salary for five years – even if the politicians lost their seats. Mr Tice had, at the time, labelled the claims as “nonsense”. Mr Sunak earlier used an interview with the Mail on Sunday to warn dissatisfied voters against abandoning the party, amid fears among some Tory MPs about the electoral threat of Reform UK. “A vote for everyone who is not a Conservative is a vote to put Keir Starmer into office,” Mr Sunak said. Those remarks were echoed by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott who told Sky News she was not worried about Reform UK outflanking her party.

Nigel Farage is currently on the latest series of 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!' Credit: ITV

The allegations come as Nigel Farage, the party’s honorary president, appears in the latest series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here. Reform UK has only taken small proportions of the vote in recent by-elections. But that has not stopped some Conservatives fearing that Mr Tice’s party could exploit voter unhappiness over small boats and immigration at the next general election. Tory chairman Richard Holden announced a slew of new deputy and vice chairpersons for the party on Saturday, including ex-housing minister Rachel Maclean and the “no nonsense” Brendan Clarke-Smith, a 2019 MP representing the “red wall” seat of Bassetlaw.

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