Five controversial things Ashfield MP Lee Anderson has done

Lee Anderson blocked the entrance to a park in Selston in 2020 Credit: Lee Anderson

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson has hit the headlines this week after making controversial comments about food bank users.

The Tory backbencher told the House of Commons that “generation after generation” of people “cannot budget” or make meals properly on Wednesday.

Labour branded Mr Anderson’s remarks “beyond belief”, the Liberal Democrats described them as “disgraceful”, and the SNP said they were “crass”.

And justice minister Victoria Atkins has also distanced the Government from his comments saying they were “not right”.

Here at ITV Central we have pulled together five instances, including his recent comments on food banks, where Mr Anderson has said or done controversial things.

  • Boycotting England's Euro finals due to players taking the knee

England reaching the Euro 2020 final last summer saw great excitement ripple across the nation and many dreamed of football coming home.

Lee Anderson though refused to watch the match against Italy as players continued to take the knee as a gesture against racism.

Speaking to LBC at the time he said: "I do want to watch the England match. It is the first time ever in my life I've not watched England games.

"I took a decision, not just football, any sporting event where the competitors or players before the event take the knee I couldn't support it because I see it as a divisive symbol.

"I see it associated with Black Lives Matter. Whether the players thing that or not that's up to them. I've got no beef with the players really at all.

"I think they are being probably poorly advised, but I would say to people if taking the knee is such a symbol of fighting racism in sport or in society then why weren't the England team doing this two years ago.

"Now if they would have been doing this two years ago before Black Lives Matter come to the fore then I would be the first person taking the knee with them but like I say it grates a little bit with me.

"I made that decision a few weeks back and i'm sticking to it. I want them to win...but I won't be watching the match.

  • Leaving Labour job to join the Tories

Lee Anderson worked for former Ashfield Labour MP Gloria de Piero as her aide but chose to leave the position and stand as a Tory candidate.

Mr Anderson went on to go head to head with Ms de Piero and succeeded her as MP for Ashfield in December 2019.

  • Claiming most asylum-seekers are illegal migrants

Mr Anderson suggested food bank use had risen because some people could not cook or budget properly Credit: UK Parliament/PA

Mr Anderson had some strong views concerning illegal crossings.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "Labour have also got no idea about the illegal crossings, the dinghies, the boats coming over the Channel.

"They seem to be confused Mr Deputy Speaker, they don't know the difference between an economic migrant and a genuine asylum seeker.

"It's a shame really. You could have a chat with me and my constituents in Ashfield they'll put you right. Come up to my Wetherspoons in Kirkby and they'll tell you the difference. They are pretty good at it."

He was then told that the Home Office had concluded that the vast majority of people in the boats are refugees and should be recognised as such.

Mr Anderson said: "I think that is a fault of the old failing asylum system. When they get in they know how to fill the forms out.

"They fill the forms out and hey presto about 8 per cent get asylum and it's wrong. It's absolute wrong.

"It's a burden on the taxpayer, they're abusing the system. It's a bit like some benefit cheats, they do it don't they.

"They say they are disabled and they're not. Yes they do, they do, so come on let's be right about it."

  • Comments about the Traveller community, June 2021

In 2019 the Tory MP made comments in the House of Commons about the traveller community while speaking in a Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Committee on June 8, 2021.

According to the Mirror, in the Commons, Mr Anderson said: "The Gypsy encampments that we are speaking about in places such as Ashfield are not the traditional, old-fashioned Gypsies sat there playing the mandolin, flogging lucky heather and telling fortunes.

"The Travellers I am talking about are more likely to be seen leaving your garden shed at 3 o’clock in the morning, probably with your lawnmower and half of your tools.

"That happens every single time they come to Ashfield."

  • Food banks

Lee Anderson suggested people should learn to better budget their finances rather than use food banks, in comments which have sparked a furious reaction online.

Despite the worsening cost-of-living crisis, he said "there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country", during a Commons debate on the Queen's Speech.

He went on: "We’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch, they cannot budget."

Mr Anderson also said meals could be cooked from scratch "for about 30 pence a day" as he invited "everybody" on the opposition benches to visit a food bank in Ashfield.

"When people come now for a food parcel, they have to register for a budgeting course and a cooking course".

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

  • Selston Park boulders

In August 2020 Mr Anderson blocked the entrance to a park in Selston by using a forklift truck to move a boulder and prevent access to the beauty spot.

His actions were caught on camera on Thursday, August 20, when Mr Anderson said he'd "had enough" .

Mr Anderson said: “Over the past two years Ashfield has become a hotspot for illegal camps with travellers moving from one site to another with very little preventative measures put in place by Ashfield District Council.

"It is becoming past a joke when you consider Eastwood and Brinsley next door in Broxtowe never have a problem but in Ashfield it is becoming a weekly occurrence.

"Over the past few days two camps have set up locally and when concerned residents in Selston contacted me to say they had seen strangers looking at the gates to the park I decided to act as this park has suffered from illegal campers very recently.

"I have seen plenty of talk about robust action from the Ashfield Independent Council Leader but very little action.

"Now is the time to step up and find solutions not hollow promises."